Smart tech, it’s taken over our portable life with the influx of tablets, wearable and mobiles, but with the ‘smart home’ and the IOT supposedly looming on the horizon how much can, and should, we actually rely on connected technology? More specifically, how secure is smart tech in the home actually going to be?
If your home becomes connected to a network how can you feasibly guarantee your safety and security when hooked up to the world wide web? Or does networking your home devices eventually make your entire house as vulnerable to hacks and bugs as say, your laptop?
It’s a worrying thought that instead of simply losing your computer to a virus, you could theoretically lose a house, or at least its digital contents, to malware… But how serious is the threat of a connected house actually being hacked?
For those Simpsons fans out there you’ll remember the amusing Treehouse of Horror XII episode in which the Evergreen Terrace home is kitted out with an intelligent AI, which (spoilers) goes awry and start killing its inhabitants… for those not au fait with the Simpsons it’s a parody of 2001 Space Odyssey and HAL’s ‘misguided’ attempts with its crew…
OK so we’re not suggesting your smart home is going to go on and rampage your family, but what about if a hacker started turning off your CCTV, overheating the boiler or disabling the smoke alarm?
Dave Herbert, Business Development Director for Yale Smart Living believes that the smart home is upon us but we might actually be in control of our own destiny…or at least security?
How secure are the ‘out of box’ consumer smart devices, like CCTV and home sensors?
“In general, we believe consumer smart devices are secure, although it does depend on the product and manufacturer. However, all smart device manufacturers face a twin challenge.
Firstly we have to persuade consumers of the importance of setting products up correctly, using and changing password regularly, and making sure they update software at device level.
Secondly, we have to make sure Wi-Fi networks are protected so that devices are not compromised. This is also about consumer education as well as trying it to make sure the user interface is more intuitive so the security settings are easier to manage.”
How can a consumer look to strengthen or protect their network?
“Unfortunately, too many people neglect to take the basic steps of regularly updating software, changing from default passwords, choosing strong passwords and then changing their passwords regularly.”
“Over the last few years we’ve seen a rise in the number of smart security products in businesses; smart alarms, sensors and particularity smart locks have become incredibly popular in certain sectors like leisure facilities, office blocks and hotels. The flexibility, monitoring and accountability of smart tech has proven popular for businesses looking to improve their security and ease of use, but the consumer market hasn’t exactly caught on with the trend.”
Why has the uptake of smart tech been so slow in the consumer market?
“Home automation products have always been considered as high end and costly, however, with the recent launches of Samsung SmartThings and Apple Home Kit we are likely to see rapid growth in home automation.”
It’s predicted by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices, how will it be possible to ‘police’ or even protect this many individual points?
“Just like the technology itself, the security to protect devices continues to evolve. We foresee a growing use of encryption and also improved security at each layer. This includes security embedded within the device itself, in the local home network and embedded in the connection, including any remote servers and databases.”
The future of the smart home
So we’ve seen how to protect your home for the time being, but what does the future bring and what products are likely to rise and spearhead the smart home revolution? Dave Herbert suggests that as we consumers become more comfortable with smart tech, devices will naturally begin to follow.
What, in your opinion, will become the most popular smart security product in the next few years?
“Smart locks. The change in consumer lifestyles means the smart lock is no longer the preserve of the gadget guru, now busy mums and families caring for elderly relatives want a simple form of access to make life easier.
We’ve also seen growth of home-sharing services like Air BnB, that need visitors codes and the ability to track who comes and goes. All of this is helping to drive demand for the product.”
How do you see the market changing over the next 10-20 years?
“The Smart Home market is moving from early adopter into the growth phrase. Consumer awareness of the Smart Home or connected home is growing.
One significant variable is the timescale for Smart Home technologies to be in the majority of UK homes, with some expecting it will be in the next 5 years and others thinking it will take 50 years or longer.
These are the classic signs of an immature market, where most consumers have little direct experience of a smart home in action but they are open to trying the experience. Assuming the Smart Home sector can provide the systems and products that truly deliver the experience consumers are anticipating, then market adoption should scale rapidly.
When we consider the first iPhone was only released eight years ago we may see other devices/ wearables taking over as the credential to access security systems but we still believe whatever the technology consumers will want to put their faith in the brand they trust.”
So let’s go a little bigger in scale for a moment and think outside the home, to smart cities.
Like it or not, the infrastructure we base our lives around is becoming increasingly smart. Road sensors are networked, traffic signals are automated, power grids are remotely managed, even buildings feed data back to an information centre to be analysed. Cities are alive and, at least a little, ‘smart’.
A major concern for many officials is that sensors can intentionally be fed bad data, or corrupted, leading to faulty analysis and, eventually, the wrong action.
From anything as small-scale as messing with the street lamps timings, to dangerous acts like road sensors connected to a smart traffic being hacked causing chaos. This threat, however conceptual or at least primitive, is high concern for a number of people, especially when it is brought into circles with disruptive behaviour and eventually terrorism.
Who is actually in charge when this goes wrong? Well no one is really stepping up just yet, although a group of experts recently launched a not-for-profit initiative called Securing Smart Cities in a bid to help city officials and government leaders reduce the liabilities and risks of implementing smart tech to their infrastructure.
Smart home security arms race
Back to the home and a question of security is likely to rage on and grow as more users get involved in the IOT and the smart home. As more users begin with connected devices the draw for hackers and criminals will likely rise, but then so should the security levels.
Like the computer security arms race, a similar smart tech security escalation will take place, between the tech innovators and the cyber criminals. How it will manifest, who knows?
For the time being, it seems as though simple good security measures and safe housekeeping is the way to keep your smart home safe.