Lots of people have been rushing to make their dumb homes smarter, installing doorbells that double as surveillance cameras, television sets that connect to the internet and a wealth of streaming services, whole home connected security systems and virtual assistants that can help the kids with their homework, answer obscure questions and play their favorite music.
Those smart devices may seem pretty great, but there is a dark side to all that home technology. Smart homes are vulnerable to a number of 21st century threats, from hackers hijacking baby monitors to embedded TV cameras turning the tables (and the lenses) on their owners.
In the end, smarter is not always better. When it comes to your home, a little technological stupidity could actually be protective. Here are some of the hidden dangers of smart home technology – and what you can do to protect yourself, your family and your home.
While they are getting better in terms of security, a surprising number of smart home devices, including security cameras, internet-connected television sets and even baby monitors, still come with embedded passwords. In some cases these passwords are static and cannot be changed by the end user, opening the devices up to hijacking by hackers and other nefarious types.
To make matters worse, these embedded passwords are often simple, making them easy to guess. Add to that the fact that many of these embedded passwords are prominently posted on the internet and you can start to see the problem. Use password encryption and a password manager to help secure and store better passwords.
Even when they do have secure passwords and user changeable login credentials, smart devices often use rudimentary security protocols, leaving them vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. Firmware is a particularly difficult problem with connected devices – updates are often delayed and all too rare, and by the time the device is purchased its security could be dangerously out of date.
You can protect yourself by checking for firmware updates before connecting any new smart device. Be sure to check for updates regularly as well – you cannot make the manufacturer take security more seriously, but you can download and install the updates as they become available.
The combination of weak or nonexistent passwords and lackluster security makes smart home devices especially vulnerable to hacking. And since these devices are typically connected to a larger home or business Wi-Fi network, one compromise could put the entire technological infrastructure at risk.
Once a hacker has gained entry through a compromised smart TV, baby monitor, doorbell or other device, they are free to roam the entire network, capturing stored passwords, scooping up personal information and leaving the victim vulnerable to identity theft – making identity protection services a must.
You can provide additional protection by locking down your home Wi-Fi network with a strong password and scanning for connected devices. If you spot any unusual activity, prompt action could mitigate the damage and allow you to restore your lost security.
Even if hackers do not overcome the weak embedded passwords and rudimentary security measures, your smart devices may still not be secure. A growing number of incidents are taking place not through third-party hacking but through the providers themselves.
From Amazon to Apple to Google and beyond, many providers of smart devices have been caught with their hands in the spying cookie jar. From hiring contractors to listen in on private conversations – and adult activities – to collecting personal information and sharing it with third parties, this kind of corporate spying has been going on for quite some time. At best creepy and at worst potentially dangerous, provider-sanctioned spying is a real risk for owners of connected devices.
Having a smart home can make you feel like master of your domain, but that sense of invulnerability is probably misplaced. Far from enhancing your security, these smart devices can actually put your home, and your family, at risk. Make sure to consider the connected-ness of your home security provider when making a decision.
If you want to protect yourself from the dangers of a smart future without giving in to your inner Luddite, knowing what the risks are is a good place to start. Once you know where the dangers are, it will be easier to address them one by one, so you can enjoy the great things the 21st century has to offer without putting yourself at risk.