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Improving Smart Home Security

April 18, 2017
By P.K. French

Without even darkening the doorway, someone has burglarized your home. And there were no broken windows, no crowbars, no ski masks or vinyl gloves –  just a smart home hacker with a digital key to, say, your fancy new thermostat, toaster, or TV.

So-called smart technology might be making individual home appliances more connected, but it’s also making the homes themselves more porous, with integrated networks vulnerable to a range of attacks from virtual intruders. Chances are, if you were the first one on the block to snag this tech, you’ve got something worth protecting in that bungalow (or mansion) of yours. And if so, it’s best not to think of that phone in your pocket (the one that grants access to your doors, heating system, garage, etc.) as a simple remote control as much as the brain of your entire home – something subject to mind control if ever a good hacker-hypnotist comes a-knocking.

The past few years have offered home-automators a ruck of horror stories and lessons in the form of system hacks. For instance, Logan Lamb, a light-side hacker and scholar, wrote a paper in 2014 on “home insecurity” in which he presented findings from infiltrating (with ease) three prominent home security systems: ADT, Honeywell, and Vivint. And earlier this year Rapid7 researcher Philip Bosco was able to bypass Comcast’s Xfinity’s security system simply by jamming a radio frequency. In the case of smart home vulnerability, there seems to be new proof piling up every month.

When it comes to theft though, there is, as some of the old Greeks would say, a unity of opposites. And this new variant of home burglary has quickly given birth to a new form of security, with companies suddenly advertising data-encryption safety measures as part of their packages. For instance, after noting that hackers could acquire access to users’ camera data, ADT began employing encrypted data in its “Pulse” monitoring systems. The question is whether or not the tactics of defense can keep up with the weaponry. Right now smart home security companies are stuck in a trench war – bombarded both by well-meaning researchers and thieving hackers.

At a time when data encryption is the hot button topic of the day, there is a bevy of business opportunities for those who want to help consumers confront the threat of home hacking. As smart home technology becomes more available to the average homeowner, expect to see cybersecurity become a literal household issue. Just imagine a future in which the wrought-iron bars on the windows of an at-risk home aren’t as crucial as a good anti-virus package installed in an app for a washer-dryer combo.

Featured Photo Courtesy of Safewise

Author Bio: P.K. French is the former Executive Editor of Innovation & Tech Today. An award-winning writer and editor based out of Denver, CO, he is fascinated by the relationship of tech and culture. You can find him on Twitter at @pk_french.

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