Smart home technology has emerged as homeowners want to improve the comfort of their homes, and at the same time, minimize daily responsibilities and expense. A home is considered ‘smart’ if some of it’s mundane functions are integrated into the Internet of Things to enable remote management and monitoring.
Smart homes today include the automation of some or all of the following:
- Appliances: audio systems, electric cooker, refrigerator, etc.
- Home security: monitor, alarm, fire, smoke, gas, etc.
- Environment: lightning, humidity, temperature, etc.
Most of the automation takes place via the internet, either wireless or wired, connected to a remote server, which collects data from appliances and security systems, and then processes it.
The remote computing servers then decide how the devices should respond to varying conditions. Commands are sent back to the appliances to function properly. However, this exchange of data over the network through the internet raises security risks that homeowners often tend to neglect.
Most smart home systems are connected to the internet, which raises cyber security risk. A researcher found out that he could haunt a house hundreds of miles away by hacking into the website for the homeowner’s smart lightning system. In another shocking case, a baby monitor company was penalized in the United States for developing a security system that a hacker was able to get into and insult a baby through a camera, from thousands of miles away.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) grows from home to home, such incidents may rise in intensity and frequency. By not paying attention to internet-based threats, smart home owners risk exposing their home and family to the whims of cyber criminals.
What needs to be done?
Unfortunately, it may take some time before smart home manufacturers start advising homeowners about the potential security risks of their implementations. So how can you stay safe in the meanwhile? Here are a few measures to take when using Internet of Things devices:
Lock down cameras: Remote Access Tools and other similar malware enable criminals to see through the webcams of compromised smart home systems, so it is critical to ensure that your home monitoring cameras are secure. If you’re not using a camera, switch it off. If the camera is built into a device, cover the lens with a duct tape while it’s not in use. Also, think about where the cameras are pointing inside your home. The security cameras are there to give you peace of mind, so make sure they’re pointed at the entrances, rather than towards people or goods in your house.
Manage passwords: Nearly all smart home devices come with a password. Change these default passwords using the website for these devices on your smartphone or laptop manually, or by utilizing the option of a password manager that can easily see and alter weak passwords. Some password managers can also manage security by locking passwords when you step away from the computer, and by protecting the passwords you type from cyber criminals via keystroke encryption.
Update device software: Smart TVs, automated refrigerators, and other similar technologies are new in the market, so many manufacturers are still figuring out security kinks after they offer the product to consumers. To secure smart home devices, make sure their software/firmware is updated to the latest version available. You should also check for these firmware updates on your device on a monthly basis.
About the Author
Amanda Green is a freelance blogger interested in writing about intersection of cleantech and the internet of things.