With all the innovations and conveniences provided by today’s digital smart home, there comes an added risk from hackers and other nefarious cyber activity. Sure, it’s great to keep an eye on your house remotely using a video camera over the Internet or to unlock your front door with an Apple Watch, but are you also creating an easy gateway for cyber criminals by installing a Home Automation system at your residence?
The importance of Internet security for the home has never been greater, and companies offering HA or Home Security solutions need to up their game to prevent the residential market from becoming the next battleground for cyber security. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how the problem of insecure IoT devices carries a risk for the Home Automation market as a whole.
Trying to Secure the Embedded Devices Used in Home Automation
One of the biggest risks with Home Automation systems involves the embedded computers lurking inside most of the devices used in a typical HA setup. Cyber security expert, Bruce Schneier, noted as much in an interview with the venerable technology magazine, InfoWorld. Schneier is the Chief Technology Officer for the cyber security company, Resilient Systems, and his opinion carries a lot of weight in the industry.
While his discussion with InfoWorld focused on the enterprise business world, many of the same concepts and problems with insecure devices also affect the growing the home market for the Internet of Things. In short, Schneier feels the device manufacturers in this sector simply need to place more emphasis on making IoT products more secure.
“And it will be worse because these are going to be low-margin devices, low-cost devices. You update your computer and phone every three to five years. You update your thermostat approximately never,” commented Schneier. He feels that products not traditionally built with embedded computers are especially at risk — thermostats, appliances, and even your car.
“It’s like the computer ecosystem in the mid-90s but without things like the profit margin. Companies will make “the thing” and they just put it out there and then they make the next thing. There’s nobody left on staff to do updates, who knows how it works. It’s not like your OS,” said Schneier.
The bottom line is that home users need to be vigilant when setting up their home networks, most notably their router. Make it a point to change the default password that comes with your router and update it regularly, especially if you are in an area with many other Internet users. Vigilance is extremely important when installing a Home Automation system at a residence located in an apartment complex or in a condominium, as you probably don’t know whether or not a neighbor with hacker skills lives within easy range of your wireless network.
In short, Internet security becomes more important once you embrace Home Automation and the Internet of Things.
Research Their Commitment to Security Before Choosing a Home Automation Vendor
With any emerging industry, many newer businesses try to get in on the action, and the fledgling world of Home Automation is no different. When doing your research of HA and Home Security vendors, pay close attention to any reviews that cover a company’s commitment to securing their devices. Check out any Internet forums dedicated to the industry to see if other users encountered any issues with hackers gaining access to their home network through an insecure appliance or any other IP-enabled device on the network.
Schneier notes that many cyber security problems in the HA space happen due to fly-by-night companies no longer offering support and updates for their products once exploitable problems are discovered. This is a situation where going with a turnkey system from a single vendor makes a lot of sense if you are new to Home Automation. If you decide on taking a DIY-path for your digital smart home, make sure that any devices you purchase come from a reputable industry veteran.
Once again, you need to do your research before installing a system and stay vigilant once it is live. Make sure to regularly change your router and network passwords, and investigate any surreptitious activity showing up in your router logs.
Photo Credit: MadLab Manchester Digital Laboratory