There’s a Downside to Smart Home Technology: Hackers

Smart Home Technology

From big banks to presidential candidates, even the most secure systems can be hacked. This leads to the question, do you think your smart home is secure enough to ward off hackers? Online security experts note that any smart home components such as security cameras, thermostats, lights and appliances that have an Internet connection are vulnerable to hacker attacks. A recent survey conducted by Coldwell Banker found that 45-percent of respondents own or plan to own smart home technology in 2016.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this number drastically increases among luxury homeowners who are usually early adopters of expensive new technology. On the other hand, luxury homeowners are the ideal target for cybercrime with a high risk level. Hackers have the ability to modify everything from the air conditioning to disabling home security cameras prior to a break-in. Interestingly, searching for a home to hack into is similar to casing a bank. The hacker will learn the behaviors of the resident to determine where they will be at any given time. Most people follow a routine with regards to work or school. This is the information that the hacker learns and can then act upon when the victim is not home.

The other issue relates to privacy of the homeowner. If a hacker can access your videos or photographs, they can then exploit them in some other way which can cause major problems. Also, by hacking into your security cameras, hackers have the ability to watch your every moment then break into the house once they confirm you have left.

Why Hacking can become a Major Problem

Although home automation equipment is still in its infancy, these products, which are a large part of the Internet of Things (IoT), could cause major issues due to their lack of basic security. The primary reason is that the companies creating these products do not have security backgrounds so they do not employee security professionals on their staff. This is especially the case of Internet startups who cannot afford such experts. The mentality is ship now and patch later.

What is also not helping is the lack of industry standards for security on smart home devices. As a result, manufacturers decide to integrate the least amount of security possible. As Apple has attempted to enter the market with their HomeKit Platform, they have found this exact issue. Since Apple is synonymous with security and robustness, they do not want to slap their name on a product with a lot of vulnerabilities in the software. As a result, they are requiring the manufacturers who wish to produce HomeKit-compatible devices to include specialized chips and firmware. Of course this takes time and additional funds to implement into their hardware.

Protection from Hackers

The Journal has provided several recommendations to better protect your smart home system from hackers including:

Changing the Password

All smart home components come with a default password. If the hacker is adamant enough about hacking your system, then they could easily find that default password with a little online research. The simplest method of eliminating this security exploitation is by changing the password to a word or phrase that you will remember but a hacker would have difficulty uncovering. The most secure passwords are not a common word and contain at least one capital letter and one number.

Keep the Devices Updated

Most developers created home automation software are novices with regards to security. Unfortunately as the development unfolds, developers can use the excuse that they are not security people thus resulting in a variety of vulnerabilities. Although this mindset is unlikely to change, vendors need to patch those vulnerabilities as they learn about them. Since there is so much security functionality that requires improvement, downloading and applying updates is instrumental to ensuring security on home automation devices from hackers.

Regularly Update your Password

Once you have established a password, it is important to occasionally change it to keep any potential hackers away from the mark. If you have given your password to a dog walker, old cook or au pair, it is absolutely critical to change it regularly. If these employees happen to have a random individual over while performing their task, the person catches wind of the password and then returns at a later date to hack into your system, it can cause major problems.

Password Protecting your Wireless Network

Do you see the trend here? Place a password at every level of the system; from initial startup on each component to the wireless network in which you are using. It is best practice to have a secured network, regardless of your smart home components. However, it is even more critical to ensure the network is password protected when there are numerous components connected through that wireless connection, especially with regards to the security cameras.

Utilizing Encryption on your Wireless Router

To take the password protection one step further, ensure encryption is used with your wireless router. Encryption is essentially scrambling the words and letters into unreadable computer jargon when the information leaves one component and unscrambling it (decryption) when the information is received by the target component. Therefore, any hacker wirelessly intercepting that message between two components will not be able to read the information.

Utilize a Cloud Service

As a result of the security concern, cloud services have been implemented to manage smart home devices. Companies such as, ADT and Vivint, can provide a better job securing the home automation equipment than the user. If you do no utilize a cloud service provider, it is your sole responsibility for securing your systems.

Home automation equipment is excellent and the industry is still in its infancy. There are many excellent products in the pipeline that will take this idea to the next level. However, in order for home automation to become and remain as mainstream products, there needs to be a set of security regulations that require manufacturers to reach a certain level of security which will ultimately protect the consumer from hackers and other malicious attacks.

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