Closing the doors to smart home hackers

Ovens that can be controlled from your phone to smart fridges that can order your food shopping – these are just some of the latest futuristic inventions well known department stores are launching in their London showrooms.

As smart home technology hits the high street, there can be no doubt widespread adoption is not long off. In fact, it’s predicted that the connected home market could be worth as much as $150 billion globally by 2020, with people keen to get their hands on the latest gadgets and gizmos.

Beyond just owning a fridge that can order more milk when supplies are low, people do believe smart home technology has the power to genuinely improve their daily lives. Recent Intel Security research reveals that nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of Brits see the benefits of having a connected home, with two-thirds saying they expect to see their gas and electricity bills reduced and that they’d have fewer household chores to do.

Smart home technology could even bring families closer together, with over a third of those surveyed (36 per cent) saying that more quality family time would be the greatest benefit of living in a smart home.

Hackers on your doorstep

As with any new technology, it comes with its uncertainties. In the case of smart home technology, that uncertainty comes in the form of security fears. Unfortunately, in today’s threat environment, hackers are keen to use any means possible to get their hands on people’s personal data. And in light of the various data breaches in recent years, consumers are increasingly growing concerned about the safety of their data. In fact, nine in ten Brits fear their smart home data could be hacked by cyber criminals and used against them.

This is because in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), every device we connect to the internet and bring into our homes opens up new risks. Take, for example, a simple webcam. This can be hacked to expose video feeds online, without your knowledge. Connected light bulbs, too, pose problems. Programmed to automatically change settings based on your presence or time of day, these bulbs become another entry point for hackers to access your home network and consequently, get their hands on your personal information for identity theft or financial data.

Keeping your data locked down

To curb these fears it’s crucial that security is built into smart homes right from the start, rather than bolted on as an afterthought. If a smart appliance fails, it needs to have a safe, reliable default mode it can revert to. It is also vital that all connected devices include strong privacy protections and remote updating capabilities in order to protect against new security threats. This is, undeniably, the responsibility of the manufacturers. In the connected age, they have a duty of care to ensure the consumers buying their products are kept safe from the prying eyes of hackers.

Granted, what’s listed above need to be done on the manufacturer’s side, but consumers also can do their bit when it comes to smart home security. First things first, consumers need to familiarise themselves with the underlying security risks of the snazzy home gadgets they are looking to purchase. Once bought, they need to be sure to review the smart home device’s security settings, change its default password and stay up-to-date with IoT news around the product to ensure they are aware of any external factors that could impact their device’s security.

The smart home opens up a world of opportunity and it’s exciting to see what new innovations will be available on the high street to purchase in the next few years. But to reap the rewards of a smart home, security has to be a priority.

We all want to feel safe within our homes, and only by taking the steps to secure our devices, and consequently our data, can we close the doors to potential hackers and sleep easy, knowing our smart locks are secure.

Nick Viney, Vice President of Consumer, Mobile and Small Business at Intel Security

Image source: Shutterstock/Alexander Kirch