Smart Protection for your Home: Is a Smart Home a more Secure Home?
Are we in danger of sacrificing security for smartness?
Smart devices for the home are rapidly becoming more and more popular, and no wonder – they’re clever, offer new levels of convenience and can provide real peace of mind. But are we in danger of sacrificing security for smartness?
The Internet of Things
The emergence of voice-controlled applications. like Alexa and Amazon Echo, has added a new level of usability to various connected products around the home. Those products include everything from video doorbells and motion-activated security cameras connected to your phone, to smart washing machines that will text you at any sign of a leak, and even the ability to turn off appliances like your oven automatically when you lock your front door. This ever-expanding range of connected products is sometimes known as the Internet of Things.
Watch our video at the top of the page, to see how smart technology could make a difference to your home and its security.
What the figures tell us
Recent reports show growing interest in these products, with 38% of people saying they were interested in buying smart home security systems, and 66% agreeing that connected devices could make their lives easier.
When you focus on younger age groups you also find a clear generation gap – among 18-34-year-olds 52% are interested in buying home security as opposed to 38% across all age groups, and 91% of 18-24-year-olds say that connected devices could make life easier, in contrast to 66% when you include all ages.
But in the rush to replace old-school locks, keys and doorbells with new technology, are we also replacing their old security flaws with new kinds of digital insecurity?
The research also showed 50% of people believe being connected to the internet makes smart security systems less secure. Those feelings were no doubt strengthened when a 2017 Which? investigation revealed flaws in smart devices, including CCTV cameras, that left them open to hackers.
How worried should we be?
We asked smart home technology expert Leo Bernard about how vulnerable these systems are, in reality, to a new, more sophisticated kind of criminal:
“Most connected home devices today are designed not to be hackable by outsiders, and it would require very sophisticated hacking knowledge even to open a connected door lock remotely. Big brand names are aware of the risk and the need to maintain consumer trust, so they run continuous security tests on their products. If they find a security issue, it will be corrected with an update within days or even hours. The UK government is also working with industry to implement a rigorous new code of practice.
“That said, I would not recommend the use of cheaper connected devices from unknown brands, and definitely nothing you suspect may be counterfeit. For them, security is probably a lower priority. I’ve run an experiment on a connected light from an ‘unknown’ brand, and it took me five minutes to bypass its security.
“Think of your house as a fortified city, like the city of Troy. It’s the host that usually, if unintentionally, allows it to be hacked, perhaps by downloading an infected file with some malicious code that allows their personal data or passwords to be stolen. So, my advice is to stick with trusted brands, and don’t be an unwitting Trojan horse!”
When it comes to keeping your smart home devices secure there are some key points to bear in mind:
Use strong passwords
This, and the next recommendation, should be standard practice with all digital technology. Most items will probably have a default password or number set, which is often ‘0000’, and leaves your devices open to anyone to enter if they have a mind to. So, change it to your own, strong but personally memorable, password at the earliest opportunity. It’s worth remembering that most commercial businesses will ask for a password containing a minimum of 8 characters, including at least one letter and one number.
Keep your software up to date
Those irritating updates you get all the time and might be tempted to ignore, will often contain the latest security improvements. Hackers are constantly looking for ways to get around security, and manufacturers are in a never-ending race to stay one step ahead. Try not to miss an update, and, if you can, set your devices to update automatically.
Be careful where you put your devices
In an age when so many devices can be voice activated, it’s worth paying attention to where you locate them. Put them by a window where they’re visible from the street, and there’s a possibility of someone with a loud voice ordering expensive items from your Alexa or Echo and intercepting the delivery.
There’s no doubt that connected technology is already making life more convenient and homes more secure for some of us. And, so long as you keep your wits about you and your software up-to-date, there’s no reason you shouldn’t join them in the near future with complete peace of mind.
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We’ve selected home tech products from a range available on the market to review their features, but we aren’t providing a recommendation to purchase.