Smart home applications have taken the world by storm in the last few years, with consumers rushing to outfit their homes with the latest and greatest technology which promises to automate the most mundane tasks.
Turn your heating off from work when you’ve forgotten to do it at home. Switch the lights off from your bed. Control your TV with your voice. Monitor your home even when you’re away. The gadgets can also boost sustainability, cost savings and benefit safety.
Yet they do pose security risks and users must take precautions. Just as you would protect your computer from hacking your personal information, you need to think about how you will protect your Alexa, which stores all sorts of personal data.
Smart devices are categorised under the “Internet of Things”, which connects all devices together, from smart toasters to smartphones and even wearables. It’s all connected. Recent Cisco insight found that by 2020, there will be more than 30 billion connected devices in the world. There is also 2.5 quintillion bytes of data produced every day – that’s 2.5 followed by 18 zeros. Take a look at the below infographic from Domo’s “Data Never Sleeps” campaign which shows just how much data in 2018 was processed every minute of every single day:
Think about it: a smart home fully equipped with appliances would cover the kitchen, the bedroom, bathroom, garden, living room, etc. If you’re logging your daily activities and rituals, it’s going to have a bucketload of data and the potential to know everything about you, from lighting preferences to individual family members’ daily schedules.
Just a few months ago, Amazon faced backlash after the Amazon Alexa assistant was reported to let out random bouts of eerie laughter and a user in Germany was sent 1,700 audio recordings from someone he did not know.
Computer scientists at the College of William and Mary discovered during tests that someone using the same WiFi as a stranger on a public hotspot in a coffee shop could hack into their smart home without even stepping into it. This is done by accessing a low-security device such as a baby monitor and then using this access to go into a high-security application which has important information on.
How Do I Protect Myself?
Many of these devices are tied to our privacy and security, such as doors and cameras. They can then use this information to physically burgle your house – and take your data with them.
These are very rare cases but, put simply, a smart home requires even smarter security, and you should have precautions in place. This can be a potentially major hindrance in the future if not protected right.
The multi-layered approach should be at the forefront of your home security strategy. You can have all the smart security in the world, but traditional methods are priceless. This way, you can get the best of both worlds and be assured that the deterrents are in place.
Think about the community that you’re living in, make sure that someone picks up your post and checks in your house when you’re away, regularly change your locks, check that your windows and doors are secure. A smart security system is great, but it’s not a magic bullet of security. It doesn’t have arms and legs to prevent burglars from entering your home, but it should be used in tandem with traditional methods to deter burglars and alert you if something happens. Glass break sensors, for example, are a great technology, sending your phone an alert if it should happen.
A simple security floodlight is an incredibly effective addition to your home security – and when you’re spending a fortune on smart home tech, it’s pretty affordable. It also helps boost the nature of your CCTV and smart doorbells by making facial recognition easier.
Make sure you change the default password of each different smart device. It’s customary for all websites but can easily get forgotten about in relation to online home applications as we don’t always associate them with computers. If possible, prioritise your banking passwords and store them on a different WiFi network, which prevents a hacker from getting into your lighting and then being able to hack your bank account.
Be Wary of Public WiFi
Many people who use public WiFi networks are aware that they bring more security risks, yet still, use it. It can be dangerous, as mentioned earlier, as those that are passwordless can be vulnerable to hacking attacks. You can take steps to minimise risk, by only connecting to networks that require security codes (most restaurants now have these), setting your phone to make sure that it doesn’t automatically connect to these, and using a virtual private network.
There’s no replacement in security prevention for being aware. Smart home devices are not meant to be a burden and can bring an abundance of benefits, but you must be wary of the risks. If your device is acting strangely, trust your instinct and consult a security professional or throw it away.
Traditional security is just as important with smart security as without, and must never not be prioritised. Let’s be aware, take the small steps to increase safety and put your feet up and enjoy the benefits of living in a smart home!