Naturally devices which are constantly connected to the internet and sending information to one-another and to you wherever you are in the world are going to be vulnerable to cyber attack. That’s not a surprise to anyone. What is a surprise though is how easy it is to use basic security measures to prevent, and more surprisingly yet, how people still get it wrong!
It’s perfectly natural to want to feel secure and relaxed in your own home, that’s what it’s there for after all. And it’s nice to have the convenience of labour saving devices around you which you can control without getting out of your chair, but what if those gadgets which do so much work for you could be put to work against you without your even knowing? What if they spied on you, collected your financial and personal information, let burglars know when you’d be at home and when you’d be out, and even let them unlock the doors to let themselves in?
Well, that’s all perfectly possible, but only if you DON’T follow the basic steps it takes to secure your Smart Home devices against hackers, scanners, and all other kinds of cyber intruders.
How Does Smart Home Technology Pose Such a Security Threat?
Smart Home Technology can only work if it has an abundance of data, data which it will use to communicate with other Smart devices, and with you via your phone, computer or tablet. Because it needs to connect to the internet wirelessly, there’s a vulnerability. The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to all the different objects which can be used or their use improved through connection to the internet. What it means is that you can look inside your Smart fridge when you’re at the shop and forgot your shopping list. Your fridge can also tell you if you left the door open, or there’s a fault causing it to get too warm. You can use a Smart thermostat to turn on the heating in specific rooms so they’re cosy when you get home, but without heating up the whole house if the rest of the family won’t be back for hours.
Because all these items are capable not only of talking to you, but to one another, not securing them against hackers or other outsiders means that anyone gaining access to something as innocuous as a baby monitor could be able to take over your house, either by locking you out or opening the doors via your Smart Access Control, or turning off the Smart CCTV during a break-in, or deleting the footage if any did get made.
As well as direct break-ins, there are other ways for you to fall victim to hackers which can be perpetrated from anywhere in the world.
Hackers are getting smarter as anti-spyware and other anti-hacking products are introduced onto the market to keep them out. So today, as well as gaining control of specific Smart devices, they could also use the access to data to create a database of the different service users you use, including banks, credit cards, retail outlets, or anywhere else you spend money.
With information which is easy to garner, such as full name, address, significant dates, NI / Social Security number, and passport and driving license numbers, they can then go on to create bank or utility accounts in your name, take out credit or loans, and generally do a great deal of harm directly, by spending your money, or more indirectly by stealing your valuable good name (identity theft) and wrecking your credit rating by using your credentials. Often you won’t know a thing about it until bills for things you never bought or debt collectors turn up, or your application for credit is turned down despite your previously glowing credit report.
Protecting your Identity
Preventing identity theft begins with protecting your personal data and reading all your bills carefully. We leak so much personal data without even realising it that the advice “be careful with your data” is almost redundant. With every form we fill out, every email to a service provider, even games and surveys on Facebook and Twitter, a certain amount of data is potentially available to someone who has ill intent in mind.
One way of preventing your data from becoming available is to ensure that nobody can hack into your Smart Home network by following all the necessary security protocols as outlined by the manufacturer in the instructions. Additionally a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and the latest anti-virus software will prevent all but the most aggressive hackers from getting into your accounts and rifling through your data.
Monitoring, Accessing Cameras and Mic’d Devices
If your Smart Home device has a camera, it’s probably there for a good reason, such as home security or monitoring the baby, the same goes for devices with a microphone. But because they’re networked, if they’re not properly secured then that security could be compromised and become a liability.
An insecure camera can be used to check if you’re at home, to look at your property to see if you have valuable goods, or simply to watch you. Similarly an unsecured microphone can not only listen for your commands, it can be used to record all of your conversations, including banking, buying, or paying bills. If you don’t realise you’re being listened to you’re going to give away all of your card details, data which could cost you a fortune.
You can stop most mic’d devices from listening again by securing your devices with new, hard to guess passwords. You can also set the device’s privacy settings to not record or share any information it collects. If you’re adjusting the security settings on a device you’ve used for some time, don’t forget to permanently delete any recordings it may already have too.
The point of many Smart Speakers and devices with mics is that they are always listening for you to talk to them. The theory is that they only record a couple of seconds of speech as part of algorithm they use to detect when they are being spoken to, but any recording is vulnerable, so make sure you turn off any Smart devices with listening capabilities when you’re using your phone to pay a bill or talk to your bank about transfers or investments.
Location Location Conceal Your Location
It wasn’t long ago that we’d share our street address with almost anyone so they could send us a letter, postcard, or junk mail. Today we eye anyone who asks for our email address without good reason with suspicion.
And that’s wise. Your home and email addresses are valuable property for hackers and identity thieves, property which should only be shared with people you can trust. If you have Smart Home devices in your home they are usually attached to a GPS system which detects the location where they are being used, ie your home. That data is meant to be private, but it is possible that hackers are accessing it. If they know where a Smart CCTV or Smart Alarm system is being used they are no more likely to be able to access it remotely, however, if they DO access it they have the edge on you. They can use it to record or monitor you, or sell the access on the black market to criminals who live in your neighbourhood.
To prevent this kind of hacking, turn off any GPS functions that your Smart devices might have. The chances of constantly needing to track a fridge or Smart CCTV camera which you have screwed to the wall are so remote that the risks of having it turned on constantly far outweigh them.
You should also place these items on a different network on your Wi-Fi router. They can still access all the data they need, but having them on a closed network means that they aren’t vulnerable to outside attack.
If you have a Smart Phone, Android, or pretty much any mobile device, you’re going to have apps. Most Smart Home devices have an app associated with them, and there are many other apps you will have downloaded too. Many of these apps are novelties you download, use once, and never get around to deleting. And that can be a problem.
Apps which seem fun at the time but serve no function, disappoint, or are just junk are often riddled with bad security. If they’re not secured properly they can send data out to anyone, allow access to anyone, and allow access to your phone, and via that, access to any and all of your Smart Home environment.
Preventing App Mishaps
Always be aware of the permission that you give apps when you download and install them. If an app isn’t associated with a particular device and you don’t use it, delete it. If links appear, don’t tap on them without thinking, instead search for hacks, scams and fraud along with the app’s name.
Briant Communications are professional Smart Home installers. From Smart Home entertainment to Smart CCTV and Smart Security Alarms and Environmental controls, we supply and install equipment form well known brand manufacturers and securely tether them to your Wi-Fi network so that you’re safe from hacking and scanning.
If you want to make your house a Smart Home but you’re unsure how to start, get in touch for a free, no obligation consultation and price estimate. You can call on 01273 465377 or email us to arrange an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published at https://www.briantcomms.com on September 23, 2021.