Smart systems and home hubs are becoming increasingly popular and something that we’re likely to see installed in many properties going forward, even those that are rented. They have many advantages and the technology has been specifically designed to make life easier for those living in the property. However, recent reports suggest that smart devices could also make us vulnerable, opening up our homes to hackers looking to exploit the use of technology.
Cyber security firm Tripwire’s Vulnerability and Exposure Research Team discovered zero day flaws in three smart home products currently available via retailer Amazon. Zero day essentially means that this is a brand new flaw that has not yet been identified or exploited – this is a perfect opportunity for hackers as it’s something that no one is aware of and there are normally no existing response protocols in place. The products that have been found to have these flaws are home hubs, which essentially provide a central hub for various smart devices around the home, as well as sensors, collecting information from each and sending notifications, as well as allowing for remote access. While the hubs are designed to offer life enhancing functionality (such as turning the heating on before you walk through the door so that the house is toasty warm for your arrival) the control could very easily be taken by someone with some fairly basic cyber crime knowhow.
It’s also worth remembering that these smart home devices are yet another way in which data is being gathered about us, from what our alarm settings are to daily movements such as when we open the blinds, what time we turn the lights on etc. All of this could be useful to criminals looking to commit crimes, whether they are launching ransomware attacks for money or committing ‘real world’ burglaries. “These devices can also be used as a gateway to inflict physical damage to a home, and ironically, they actually make homes less secure,” said Lamar Bailey, director of research and development at Tripwire.
Although, at present, the risk from this kind of attack is relatively low it’s not likely to stay that way. Hackers and cyber criminals are well known for their genius when it comes to constantly finding new and inventive ways to convince us to hand over personal information – or cash/bitcoin. Most experts believe that once it becomes obvious just how much data is available via one of these systems, and what the potential for extortion is, it’s only a matter of time before attacks become as frequent as phishing emails, particularly if it becomes standard for new homes to have a smart hub and smart devices. While it isn’t all doom and gloom – most manufacturers should respond fast to these kind of attacks and issue ‘patches’ to block the vulnerabilities to make them safer – it’s definitely a good idea to be aware of what the risks might be if you have smart devices in your home. The Internet of Things is certainly exciting and presents some fantastic opportunities for a more efficient life but make sure you understand the technology too.