There is a tech on the market that can automate lights, temperature, and music in all corners of your home. You can buy gadgets that lock your doors and make it look like someone is home when you’re not there. No one can dispute that these things are cool, but we’re here to ask: are they safe?
The house that can do everything
Former SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson spoke with The Wall Street Journal about his own smart home that has over 150 connected devices. His business, acquired by Samsung a few years ago, helps customers create their own smart home.
Via smartwatch, Alex’s home recognizes when he wakes up in the morning based on recorded sleeping patterns. Immediately, the house does several things to prepare Alex for his day. It includes adjusting the lights and thermostat.
Alex’s house also brews him a perfect cup of coffee that stands at the ready for when he makes his way downstairs. There are also motion sensors to notify Alex when there is movement in the house after 6 am, indicating that his children are awake.
When Alex opens the cupboard to retrieve a coffee mug, a speaker immediately notifies him of the weather forecast for the day. The home also has ambient lights that change color based on what’s happening in the house. Blue light means the mail has arrived. Other colors indicate other events, such as when the laundry is done or the gun case opening without authorization. The house can even go into a mode called “party time.” When Alex says those words anywhere in his home, party lights come on, and a disco ball is activated.
Many of the devices in Alex’s home were not initially smart devices, but he has made them such using “smart outlets.” These are wall outlets that you can switch on and off remotely over wifi. For example, Alex’s coffee maker is a run-of-the-mill coffee maker, but it is plugged into a smart outlet. He can set a timer to turn on and off when he needs his coffee.
What about smart home security?
There’s no denying that all these gadgets seem kind of cool. However, behind every self-timed coffee maker, there is a dilemma that most consumers do not understand. The problem is that these internet connected devices act as entry points for hackers to get into your home network.
Even the smart outlets, as insignificant as they seem, can fall victim to attackers looking for an ‘in.’ Criminal hackers sneak along the local network to find devices such as your laptop that store valuable information. From there, your data, privacy, and even finances are fair game.
Alex does talk about his home’s physical security and being able to have peace of mind, thanks to his devices. He mentions the smart locks he has on his doors that alert him if the door is opened while he is away. He’s gone so far as to set automatic lights to come on in various sequences while the family is on vacation, to give the impression that someone is home.
These seem like pretty extensive security measures. The problem with this is that the modern home is more likely to be hacked than robbed, and Alex says nothing of what actions he takes regarding online security.
Why You Should Be Wary of Smart Home Devices
Both buying and selling these types of devices can be dangerous. Many people are unaware of the risks that they are inviting into their homes. Since this interview was taken, researchers have made some pretty scary proof-of-concept attacks. The researchers noted that because the devices allow lots of third-party app development.These apps have ‘over privilege’ meaning they ask for permission to access more functions than they need to.
Manufacturers release products onto the market that has not been properly secured. Often, they even leave so-called backdoors. These are secret, intentional holes in the security of the devices that are used for system maintenance and troubleshooting. However, when they get into the wrong hands, these backdoors can also be used by criminal hackers to take down an entire network.