5 Tips to Avoid Smart Home Hacking

Kyle Bishop | 08.03.18 | | Comments

There’s this thing about technology: the more it connects us with the things that matter most, the more vulnerable it makes us to cyber-attacks. Research conducted by Alarms.org indicates that the global smart home market is forecasted to reach a value of over 40 billion dollars come 2020. Internet of things or IoT has already connected almost every appliance in our home to the internet including our fridges, door locks and washing machines etc. but with this efficiency and controlled usage, comes certain exploitable attack vectors. Even though a lot of research is being done in the field of cybersecurity, most of the smart devices used in homes are not secure enough. Here are some of the ways your smart home systems can be breached:

Intercepted signals:

Smart devices usually transmit information via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and these signals can get intercepted by hackers if the right tools are used. Most of the time, the captured signals don’t reveal any exploitable information as they are encrypted but if they are not, they can provide a potential attacker with vital information to compromise the device.

Physical tampering:

Even the most rigorously secure devices can be exploited with ease if physical access is gained. Most devices come with reset buttons and/or external antennas that can be manipulated to carry out attacks. In 2016, Pen Test partners, a penetration testing company found a vulnerability in the then-famous Ring Video bell which connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network: If you remove two screws from the device and press the “setup” button present at the back, a Wi-Fi access point is created which can let any hacker get access to the home network.

Out-of-date software:

We are all guilty of brushing aside the security update prompt on our phones and other devices from time to time. However, not updating smart home devices can make them susceptible to attacks as most of the times, the updates are released to fix vulnerabilities and bugs that can otherwise be exploited by hackers. A good example of this can be when Apple released a vital update that fixed a huge vulnerability that allowed attackers to take complete control of iPhone and Mac devices.

Password cracking:

Simple passwords are easy to remember but they are also easy to crack. Before a hacker tries anything else, they try to run a brute-force attack to try and figure out your device’s password. If they can get access to your device by cracking the password, they can take control of the device as they please.

Customizable applications:

Some smart home application developers give users the luxury to move the design elements of the application around and customize them according to their desires. Even though this seems fairly beneficial from a usability standpoint, it can also have some adverse effects. For instance, some security system applications allow third party app developers to make compatible apps and design flaws in the said applications can compromise the security system itself.

Aforementioned were some of the most common ways hackers can get unauthorized access to a smart system; now let’s take a look at some of the ways we can stop the hacks from taking place:

1. Go for a system that has state-of-the-art encryption:

Choosing a smart home system requires substantial research and you should ensure that you obtain services from one of the more reliable names out there. These companies implement transmission encryption to ensure that even if a hacker intercepts device traffic, they are unable to decipher any of it.

2. Use strong passwords:

Using strong passwords is a must because remembering them is a small price you pay for the gift of increased security. It’s also recommended to keep changing your passwords periodically to ensure that nobody has unauthorized access to your system.

3. Keep your devices up to date:

Keeping your devices up to date is also a must. Moreover, these updates don’t usually run automatically so make it a practice to check for updates on your smart phone application, from time to time. Most of the times, these updates are very vital as they prevent you from letting the hackers exploit any vulnerabilities present in the device.

4. Keep your computer and your smart home devices on separate networks:

It’s also a recommended practice to keep your computer on a separate network than your smart home devices because this segregation reduces the risk of cyber-attacks according to many experts. You can either purchase a separate network connection or just create a virtual local area network (VLAN) within your existing one. By setting up a VLAN, you are able to separate a device or a group of devices from another and this way, if one group/one device gets compromised, the others remain intact.

5. Don’t use default usernames:

Almost all smart home devices come with default usernames and passwords and the first thing you should do is change them. The harder your username and password combination is, the securer your device will be.

Some top smart home systems

There are thousands of smart home systems available in the market but here are some of the more recommended ones:

1. ProtectAmerica:

ProtectAmerica is one of the best smart home systems providers in the US. They provide 24/7 monitored home security features and are known for their highly cooperative customer service.

2. Vivint smart home:

Vivint smart home’s application allows you to control your doorbell camera, garage door and smart lock from anywhere.

3. Link interactive:

Link interactive systems allow you to build your very own DIY home security packages. Their system comes with 24/7 central station monitoring and cellular based automation features.

Final word

Smart home devices make our lives easier but if we don’t choose the right service provider and don’t follow some of the aforementioned security tips then they can be easily exploited by hackers. It’s the need of the hour to always consider smart device security an utmost priority.

Kyle Bishop
author

An Electronic Security Systems Senior Technician and an ex-military man, Kyle is best known for his solving complex problems skills. Always keeping busy, Kyle also loves sharing tips and insights online on home security, inserting public awareness on the importance of the subject.

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