Are people safe when using smart home devices?

Last year, CBC Canada did an interesting experiment. They hired three ethical hackers who sent a phishing email to a couple from Ontario and were able to unlock their front door, protected by a smart security device, in a matter of minutes.

This phishing email prompted the couple to share their log-in details, which immediately gave the hackers unobstructed access to the couple’s Wink Connected Home Hub that not only controls the security of their front door but is supposed to secure their whole house.

Luckily for the couple from Ontario, this was just an experiment. However, it has shown that smart home devices, though proclaimed to be safe to use, don’t guarantee full security.

So, what extra measures can you take to stay safe using smart devices?

1. Password Control and Two-Step Verification

Smart devices, just like with anything else, should not share one password. You might think that in 2019 everyone already knows this, but the reality is far from it.

The above-mentioned couple from Ontario made a mistake of giving the same password to access their Wi-Fi and their smart devices, including their Nest security cameras, which allowed hackers to log in and see what was going on inside the house.

The solution is to have different passwords for each of your accounts. And, if you find it hard to remember all of them, you can use a password manager, create one password for it and have it lock all other passwords and store them safely.

To level up your password game and gain more control over the access to all your smart devices, you can also set up the two-step verification:

This method ties your phone number to a device, and after you type in your password, you’ll have to also type in a verification code, which is sent to your mobile phone. Without it, no one will get access to your smart devices, giving you an extra level of security.

2. Understanding Privacy Policy

We all are guilty of brushing off the issue of privacy policies and terms of use, and this is what hackers are all aware of and may use it against us.

Understanding the privacy policy of each of your smart devices is an important step to protect your smart home environment from intruders.

Let’s consider the following example. Many smart homeowners have voice assistants, like Alexa, to control other smart home devices. Alexa, for instance, can control thermostats, LG smart bulbs, and even Nest security cameras.

However, there’s no 100% guarantee that your communication with your voice assistant stays private. In Amazon Alexa Privacy Policy, you can come across the information that Amazon workers may occasionally listen to the conversations between the owner of Alexa and the smart assistant to develop new features and improve voice-to-text transcriptions.

However, Alexa owners can switch Amazon’s access to the voice assistant by turning off a couple of features:

  • “Use messages to improve transcriptions”
  • “Help develop new features”

This will keep Amazon off selecting audio recordings to develop new features and will limit the access to your voice assistant.

Now, you can see the importance of understanding privacy policies for each of your smart home devices – forewarned, forearmed.

3. Securing Your Internet Connection

It’s all about the security of your Wi-Fi connection since it controls all your smart devices and combines them into one smart home network.

The research done by Flatfy, an international real estate company that also sublets apartments with smart home devices, has found three main mistakes that smart homeowners make when it comes to Wi-Fi connection:

Incorrect name of the router.

Some owners leave the name given by the manufacturer, while others set the name that gives a hint at their data (first or last names) or their address. By doing so, you unwillingly give a hacker a guide, how to find your home faster. The rest is easy: hackers use their tools or social engineering strategies to hack into your network.

Not having a guest network.

If you own smart home devices, you should be the only person having access to them. If you have people coming over, have a separate network for them to use Wi-Fi, but don’t share the information about the network that controls your smart devices.

Some smart homeowners often log into their smart devices using public networks, just to check the cameras or the thermostat. By doing so, they invite hackers to tamper with their smart home systems. In a story by the Detroit News, a couple had an incident of a hacker logging into their Nest smart home system and taunting the homeowners by talking back to them through a speaker on a security camera.

Home owners made a mistake of logging into their smart home system from a public WiFi some time ago, and couldn’t even imagine that someone would intrude their personal space. However, public Wi-Fi networks cannot guarantee full security, so be careful when using unprotected Internet access.

Stay Safe

Although the manufacturers constantly assure us of the safety of our smart devices, they cannot guarantee their full security. Moreover, the owners of smart devices are often guilty of security breaches because of their indiscretion.

Hopefully, these tips will help you better understand how smart devices work and how to safely use them.

Ryan is a passionate writer who likes sharing his thoughts and experience with the readers. Currently, he works as a digital marketing specialist, you can check his website hu.Flatfy.com. He likes everything related to traveling and new countries.