In a world with an increase in interconnection, smart devices are step-by-step playing a more significant role in your daily life, be it at work or home. Guess how popular smart homes are? Statistically, by 2025, their estimated number on this globe in the world will be more than 470.0 million.
But the not-so-good news is, devices with the IoT (Internet of Things) connection have both favorable and unfavorable consequences. While technological evolution makes your heart race – in a positive way, there are smart home security vulnerabilities – particularly when cloud-based or digital tech is concerned.
So, the question right now is “how safe are smart homes?” Long story short, their safety is undeniable yet the privacy concerns are unignorable.
Exactly what is a smart home?
The smart home is the talk of the town this year. Yet, precisely how you should define it?
In general, it implies a home that several gadgets have Internet connectivity, otherwise referred to as IoT devices. These include light bulbs switched on using your voice to a wired/ wireless security camera system that enables you to keep what matters most in check. Else, products such as video doorbells, touch panels, and sensors are examples of smart home devices.
There are many things you can do with this system. For example, make use of Google Assistant or Alexa for voice commands. You likewise have the choice to automate actions. For instance, as your home security system gets armed, have the thermostat dip, which implies you are away from home.
Generally speaking, smart home devices improve your life quality. With them, you can pay more attention to what matters.
The market growth
In the current era, more and more households recognize the importance of the smart home. F-Secure showed that the Gen Z and Millennial groups prefer buying connected home products. That is because they wish to transform their living place into something as technologically advanced as possible. It is worth noting that these groups are not the only ones who have a fascination with this system.
Initially, some assumed that the smart home market would suffer a setback owing to the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease. Yet, according to the latest survey implemented by Xiaomi, the need for these items has risen in the pandemic. Better yet, since March 2020, on average, shoppers have purchased two new smart gadgets. And notably, gen Z customers bought three on average.
The IDC (International Data Corporation) predicts that smart devices’ sales units will increase to over 1.4 billion sales all over the globe by the end of 2024. According to Parks Associates, the sales growth does not have to do with mere luck or a Covid19-based trend. Instead, today, consumers count on connected gadgets to make their lives a breeze.
How does your smart home work?
For a better clue of smart home security issues, you need to see how it works.
The connected home items comprise super small computers with Internet connectivity. That is why you can control them remotely. Here, ‘items’ mean house stuff like your microwave and your place’s entire heating system.
These products connect via a hub using an Internet protocol. It could be a network router or simply your smartphone.
Nevertheless, unlike the traditional remotely operable gadgets, connected items can gather and store your private data. These include, but are not limited to, your everyday habits and credit card info. Also, they may get put away on the gadget or the network, risking their exposures to hackers. Any item with a Wifi connection likely encounters a privacy issue.
Key smart home statistics
If you want to figure out how safe connected homes are, check out the numbers first.
On the one hand:
- According to Statista, the world sees about 175 million smart homes.
- As per Berg Insight, by 2022, the United States is forecast to have 63 million homes qualifying as ‘smart’.
- Mordor Intelligence expects that the connected home market on the globe will register a CAGR of over 25% in the projected period of 2020 – 2026.
- According to Wakefield Research, more than 85% of millennials would be willing to pay more for a smart home.
On the other hand:
- As per connected home statistics in America, around 35% of American broadband households tackled a data security problem in 2020.
- Avast reveals that more than forty percent of connected homes have one device or are more vulnerable to cyber attacks, exposing the entire house to danger.
How safe are smart homes?
There are usually doubts about any new technology adoption. Regarding how effective, reliable, and safe it is, for example. Nevertheless, smart home devices have proved their worth, increasing your everyday life value. It assists in automating tasks and boosting your productivity, which makes the risks a good trade-off for some customers.
Indeed, according to the State of the Connected World 2020 edition report from the World Economic Forum, wider adoption of smart gadgets during the global coronavirus pandemic had led to plentiful perks but had also posed security concerns.
Let’s dive more into how advantageous the connected homes are.
Outfitting your home with some smart gadgets can better protect your property from intruders. Some of the most preferred ways to do that are through video doorbells, smart locks and cameras, and door and window sensors. Thanks to such security attributes, you will inspect your house visually via your smartphone with ease, however far away you might be.
Generally speaking, greater peace of mind is among a connected home’s benefits. And it has never been simpler to secure your living place when you travel, which we will address more in-depth later in this post.
IoT’s higher convenience is one of the significant reasons an increasing number of people go for it. Who does not like the flexibility of controlling aircon remotely, for example? It enables you to monitor your place’s conditions from anywhere on this planet.
You likewise do not have to look for the songs you like in the music library anymore. That is because Alexa will do that job for you!
3. Refined business operations
Your home is not the only place that benefits from IoT. Nowadays, there are barely any lines between business and home.
By any chance, are you working remotely from home? If so, it could be necessary to have a smart home system to streamline your business processes. For example, in agriculture and medicine, connected gadgets are valuable. They can minimize unnecessary spending and boost the fulfillment of customers’ needs.
Travel concerns that you can handle with smart home security
Here are examples of travel concerns you can get rid of thanks to reliable connected home security:
1. The confusion about how to collect your deliveries when you are away
In the era that e-commerce is widespread, there is a high chance that you have an order delivered while you are not home. Picture this: Your delivery arrives, and from afar, you can get it kept where you want. This way is convenient and helps maintain a great degree of safety. You know, uncollected packages around your place may tempt people to do something pretty nefarious. Meanwhile, a secure smart home will enable you to make what you just imagine into a reality.
2. The uncertainty of whether or not you turned off the switches and consequent stress
Aside from removing your concern about receiving packages, a connected home helps with saving power. From time to time, do you find yourself heading on a long trip with your family and not being sure about whether you turn off the fan and stuff? While being blameless, it sure costs you relatively a considerable expense regarding the electricity bill.
Thanks to smart home security, you will receive alerts should any household switches get left turned on. You can be stress-free and save on the power bill as well.
3. The tension of robbery while you are not home
Thefts are an unfortunate but inevitable part of living in a community. The good news is, smart homes with decent security can see to it that you keep thieves out of your house. Even if they successfully get in, you will get notified, and the robbers will get tracked thanks to the system. What is more? You have the choice to schedule the lights to switch on in regular intervals, making it appear like you are at home.
4. The uneasiness about the bad weather
You like being on the road. But when traveling, do unfavorable weather conditions often make you anxious? For example, what if your window is open and water seeps in through it? What if the wind causes broken stuff? Thanks to a secure smart home, you will be relieved that appropriate precautions are adopted, and you can close any open doors and windows from afar.
5. The nuisance of asking your neighbor to look out for your house
Last but not least, another inconvenience that comes with being away is when you ask your neighbor to help watch your house. Owing to the security you benefit from home automation, that hassle is unnecessary.
Risks of smart home technologies
Amid the more widespread use of IoT items, more business owners, renters, and homeowners show cybersecurity and privacy concerns. There are potential security and hacking risks, and virtual crime is a real challenge to deal with. That is why every network, smart gadget, and software need get secured against attacks.
For your information, according to a study, the smart baby monitor, smart garage door opener, robot vacuum cleaner, video doorbell, and smart TV are among the most vulnerable household devices. Their severity is “high”, and security vulnerabilities are “critical. These items are not just connected to IoT but tend to belong to your home Wifi network.
Now that you see smart home security is not perfect, does that implies these connected homes are dangerous? No, they are not, yet there are some related risks. Below is a summary of the common threats and how to tackle them.
The common threats
1. Private information attacks
Many gadgets in your connected home comprise private information stolen and leveraged by hackers. For example, they may use your birth information, location, and credit card details against you. Should the thieves steal the info from the devices, the chance is they will use it in shady deals.
We suggest not sharing private financial info with smart home items to prevent hacks. Avoid connecting other applications or something that likely contain sensitive info.
2. Password stealth
What if your Facebook account password falls into the hands of hackers? If that is the case, there is a likelihood that they steal your smart gadget password too. In the case of a weak password, it is quite simple to access any device.
The question now is, what would thieves do with your smart device password? Should there be no included data, they might begin tampering with your home devices. For example, you are likely to find your television channels changing on their own. Else, the lights may turn off all of a sudden. There are probably more and more matters until the thieves break into your place.
What action should you take in this regard? The best prevention is using complex passwords and 2FA (two-factor authentication) in every home gadget.
3. Identity theft
When the thief has your sensitive information, say credit card details, there are many things they can do with it. Identity theft becomes easy, for instance.
Instead of hacking into one user, several cyberthieves like stealing information from a smart-device company. That way, they gain access to the corporate database and all user data.
Taking advantage of those data, the thieves can impersonate anybody. Else, they apply for a credit card. What is worse is they request a mortgage under your name. Unfortunately, the possibilities seem to have no end.
What should you do to protect yourself from such cases? We suggest you share only the least and required personal information. Likewise, keep tabs on your credit card from time to time to detect anything strange.
4. Tracking location
Have your smart gadgets had adequate security so that they will leak your private info? Even so, there is a possibility that they reveal where you are. As a consequence, the thieves likely follow you and find your real-time location.
It is not super-duper challenging to access your location. The hacker can just send a malicious link to your smartphone. Should you open that link, they will know your exact place through any connected device to the same network. They can even control your smart home devices if you connect them to your phone.
What is a relief is it is simple to get around that. Just give your home’s smart gadgets a dedicated network. At the same time, for your personal use, count on a separate one. By doing so, your cellphone by itself will get the thieves nowhere.
6. Breaking in
The risks addressed above may sound less alarming than the risk of burgling your house. In this case, your beloved ones and you at home may be in danger. Even more, burglars might steal the things inside.
Professional hackers may know how to disable smart door locks, surveillance cameras, and stuff. You know, these items’ security loophole can allow the hacker to make the camera useless and open the doors.
If they manage to do so, the consequences are likely disastrous. So, you need to do something to stay away from that. For example, set up a traditional security alarm with no smart options that people can hack into with ease.
Your smart home security concerns: Room by room
Should we take a tour through your smart home and figure out how to secure your different gadgets in each room?
1. Before you enter the house
Again, a connected home’s security risks may apply before you enter your living place. There are security systems professionally monitored in about 21 million American homes. Nevertheless, they are not 100% free from hacks. Several security systems encountered intrusions where thieves could talk with residents, play dirty songs, and crank the householders’ heat as high as ninety degrees.
Please keep in mind that aside from security cameras, you may use your smartphone apps to control outdoor items such as smart sprinklers and garage door openers from afar. Of course, they are intended for increasing your life’s convenience, but outdoor products with embedded computers are likely vulnerable to attack.
Outdoor items’ vulnerability is worthy of your concern due to their accessibility to those driving along the street with a Wifi transmitter or something. Thieves can leverage outdoor smart gadgets as entry points before spying on your whole smart home network.
The advisable way to keep someone from accessing your network is checking how these devices store your information. In case the gadget’s system puts away your sensitive info and is part of your main home network, the chance is hackers will lay their hands on your data after breaching a network’s item.
2. Living room
The second you enter your smart home, are you fond of the view of various devices you use to boost convenience? Say, personal home assistants, smart speakers, lightbulbs, thermostats, and smart television?
Yet, on the other hand, as they have Internet connectivity, cybercriminals may find a way to gain access to them. For instance, according to the FBI, hackers could gain unauthorized access to an unsecured smart television and have control over it by changing volume or displaying inappropriate content to kids.
Also, as per a recent study, there are privacy concerns regarding a virtual assistant. For example, privacy policies become misleading. Or, third parties are enabled to change their programs’ code upon successful approval from the gadget’s parent company.
Dr. Anupam Das from North Carolina State University said that third-party software developers designed a lot of the applications with which consumers interact when they use the virtual assistant. Nevertheless, he uncovered some flaws in the existing vetting procedure. These might let the third parties obtain users’ info. One thing to note is there is no verification from the virtual assistant’s parent firm about the developer’s responsibility related to creating the third-party program. That is why cybercriminals are likely to register under a trusted developer’s name and develop a program circulating malicious code.
Generally speaking, because of these, importantly, you remain informed on possible vulnerable entry points that device manufacturers leave open. This way, you will take action to protect your smart home system and your privacy with more ease.
Nowadays, talking to your fridge (well, perhaps a little) is not something peculiar to do. Smart gadgets are fast finding a way to your kitchen. You have the choice to control your Instant Pot using your smartphone. A variety of appliances allow you to leverage voice activation for use as well. That is why the lines between the digital and the physical become blurred.
On the one hand, smart kitchen devices empower you to do a lot of things in a breeze. Yet, on the other hand, there are security risks you should know. Three years ago, researchers found a Mr. Coffee Maker-related vulnerability that likely enabled a thief to get at the user’s home network.
So, how to keep hackers from causing trouble in your kitchen? Just see to it that you take proper measures to secure your smart home items and prevent thieves from watching your network secretly.
Are you among those who consider the bedroom more than just where you are in bed at night? You know, it is a heavenly place that allows you to chill out and whatnot. Without a doubt, many people have used multiple devices to transform their bedrooms into state-of-the-art hubs for loosening up. For instance, smart mattresses usually come with biometric sensors, giving you a better rest. Better yet, they work with a smartphone app that keeps tabs on your sleep quality and health conditions.
Undeniably, thanks to the technology, you know more in-depth about improving your sleep quality. There is one thing to note, nevertheless. These items are gathering data and referring it to the manufacturer. Most of the time, users do not mind what particular information is being picked up and its use. They would rather trust the product manufacturer that they will protect their data.
However, what is up if a data breach occurs to the firm? A likelihood is that hackers will gain access to your information. For enhanced safeguard of your online security, you had better see that appreciating the IoT convenience requires consideration of where your info is being saved.
Tips to secure your smart home
Since we rely on smart devices more and more, we need to come forward with our cybersecurity practices. Refer to the following tips. These will help with your info protection. At the same, they allow you to appreciate all that your smart devices have to bring to the table.
1. Improve your Wifi network security
Right after you buy and unpack them, you find that many Wifi routers either use a default password or are not secured. That is why thieves can access gadgets attached to the router easily. The best way to keep hackers from spying on your network and devices connected to it is by using a strong password for your Wifi network.
2. Make sure device and account passwords have a strong and unique form
A unique, complex, and long passphrase or password will prevent thieves from accessing your accounts. We recommend using a string whose length is twelve characters or more. It should also comprise numbers, symbols, lowercase letters, and uppercase letters. For the best, use unique ones for each account.
3. Take your time before you buy
Do your research before you purchase a smart home gadget. Think about whether the device is from a trusted brand. Has the firm suffered past data breaches? Or, is it well-known for offering secure products?
What is more? Consider the info your IoT gadget gathers, how it gets used by vendors. Likewise, get to know what data they reveal to third parties and whatnot.
On top of that, find out what control you gain over your privacy and data usage. Be happy in case an IoT gadget enables you to rule out having your data gathered. It will also be great if the device allows you to access and remove the info it does pick up.
4. Use multi-factor authentication
This authentication asks you to confirm an assortment of things for your identity verification. These tend to be an element unique to your physical being (like a fingerprint scan) or something you have.
With the multi-factor authentication, thieves’ credential-stuffing tactics will be in vain. In case you do not know, the tactics involve using the password and email combo to gain unauthorized access to online profiles. In case a data breach ever had your login information exposed, they can even hack into your account.
5. Keep your devices updated
Stay in the know about your device manufacturer’s software updates. As they may not always advertise available updates, check their website from time to time. Also, see to it that you update mobile applications working with your IoT gadget. A pro tip is enabling automatic software updates in the settings. This way, you will not have to worry about when to do so.
6. Optimize your network security
The main hub connecting every gadget in your home is the router. Thus, ensure its security. After changing its name and default password, make certain the network name does not reveal where you are. Then, thieves will not be able to locate your address.
Also, check whether WPA2 or other encryption methods apply to your router. These will ensure your communication security.
Further, think about installing a ‘guest network’ for your connected gadgets. The second network will allow for separation between your smartphones and computers and IoT items. This way, should a gadget be compromised, a thief still fails to steal every valuable info stored on your computers. Read the router’s manual for the steps of installing the guest network.
The smart home future: Enhanced security
In this age, more and more things are connected, whether outside or inside your house. Since an increasing number of gadgets have come online, particularly amid the coronavirus pandemic, experts have done their best to diminish security concerns when building future smart homes. The ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) expected an increase in connected products and has developed a security baseline. It will set cybersecurity standards for safeguarding connected device users.
Promisingly, businesses and homes aside, IoT will scale up to include whole cities. As you know, this type of city brings plentiful perks, for example, boosting resident safety, improving incident response times, upgraded infrastructure, and better citizen collaboration.
The bottom line is, regardless of privacy risks, connected devices have the brightest future ever. Like what the American businessman Charles H. Robbins has stated, “the opportunity we have is to build a secure, intelligent platform that solves some of the world’s greatest problems at scale. That is what is possible with hundreds of billions of connections and the capabilities that we can deliver together.”
Thanks to smart home technology, your life quality gets better and better. Indeed, once you own the right gadgets, daily life will become a breeze, more comfortable, and cost-effective. It is worth noting that instead of spending lots of money to get smart devices, you have the choice to buy low-cost ones you can afford, gradually perfecting your collection as time passes by.
While enjoying what they offer to you, you should still be aware of the risks regarding your connected gadgets, which will help you be more ready to prevent them. Do not forget: a safe home is your smartest home!