Are Smart Homes Safe From Hackers?

Smart home devices are becoming increasingly popular, as new technology continues to flood the market. The days when security alarms were the most high-tech devices in homes are gone.

Today, almost any device in your home can be automated, but is it sensible to automate all of your devices? You are probably wondering if having many so-called smart devices in your home is actually smart. Does having such devices increase your vulnerability to hackers and criminals? Those are certainly valid concerns.

The short answer is any device that connects to a network and can be remotely accessed can potentially be hacked. Hackers have the ability to hack such devices in real time. In some cases, they can also view usage histories for the devices. Those histories can reveal additional data the hackers can use to commit crimes against you. However, there are ways to protect your home from hacking incidents. Below is more information about hacking hazards and defensive steps you can take to protect your smart home.

Smart Home Hacking Hazards

The Internet of Things (IoT), is the term used for all of the smart devices that are coming out on the market today and how they interconnect online. Each of those devices can be vulnerable to hacking. The hacking of one small device may be innocuous and seem like a waste of time for hackers. However, the collective knowledge taken from all smart devices in your home can paint a clear picture for criminals.

For example, you may think the biggest target in your home is your computer or your security camera system. Those certainly can be targets but they are not the only targets that exist. One example of an often-overlooked hacking target is an automated thermostat. It is likely you set your thermostat for different temperatures when you are sleeping or planning to be away for an extended period of time. That data can tell hackers when your home is likely to be empty and easy to rob.

Even if that data is not enough information alone, when hackers access your smart devices, they can pool the collected data. For example, if you own a coffee pot set to make coffee at a certain time daily, then hackers can infer the approximate time you are getting up and ready for work. Combined with data from your thermostat and other household devices, that knowledge can be powerful and dangerous.

Issues That Can Make Smart Homes Easy to Hack

When considering the issue of smart home protection from hackers, you can equate it to issues that have existed with computers since the early days of the internet. As technologies change, new threats appear. Security measures are developed to deal with those threats, but security programs can have holes. The same is true of smart home device protection. Since all your devices are connected to your home network, they are only as safe as the network itself. Therefore, you have to keep your security software updated at all times to maintain the best level of protection possible at a given time. Even by doing so, your network is not kept completely hacker-proof, but risks are minimized.

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The security of individual smart devices in your smart home must also be called into question. Smart home devices are relatively new to the market. They are not held to specific standards like computers or cellular phones. Some manufacturers of smart devices for homes have security knowledge but others do not. Often, devices are launched with minimal security features if any. Updated security options are sometimes released in response to discovered threats, but by that time it may be too late to keep your home secure. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to have the smart home you desire while minimizing your security risks.

Choose Your Smart Home Devices Wisely

You may think the purpose of a smart home is to completely automate everything in your house. Turning every appliance you have on and off with a quick press of a button may sound appealing but resist the urge. The more smart home devices you own, the more difficult it is to keep them all safe from hackers. Limit yourself to the devices you like or need most. Some examples of popular smart home devices include the following smart products:

  • Doorbells
  • Lighting systems
  • Security cameras
  • Smoke detectors

Those devices may all provide you with more security than risk, as long as you install and update them properly. Devices like automated vacuum cleaners and coffee pots are fun. However, they add more potential security risks without providing many benefits. Therefore, you must balance your desires with your security concerns before deciding whether to purchase them.

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 After selecting types of devices to purchase for your smart home, focus on the brands and ages of the devices in question. Only select devices manufactured by trusted companies with reputations for having good security measures in place. Also, avoid the temptation to buy brand new smart home devices. Instead, look for devices that have been on the market for enough time to have positive reviews.

Manage Your Smart Home Network Properly

After selecting any device for your smart home, you must connect it to your home network. You can connect all devices on a single network but doing so creates more vulnerability. If a hacker breaks into that network, he or she can control your computer and every other automated device in your home. Historical data from all of those devices can also be accessed for nefarious purposes easily.

The solution is to create at least two home networks. Designate one for your main computer and one for your automated devices. You can also opt to split your devices onto separate networks. However, doing so may make coordinating the timing of use of the devices across networks difficult.

Once your desired networks are established, make them as difficult as possible to hack. Do not use any default usernames or passwords that may be easy to crack. Create unique passwords for each of the devices and networks in your home. Use letters, symbols and numbers in those passwords for higher security. That way, if one network or device is hacked, other devices in your smart home still remain secure.

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