How to Outsmart ‘Smart’ Home Hackers


How to Outsmart ‘Smart’ Home Hackers

Tips to protect your smart home systems from hackers. December 2016

A REFRIGERATOR THAT KNOWS you’re out of milk before you do? A thermostat that cools down as soon as your head hits the pillow and warms back up in the morning, without the touch of a button or flip of a switch? Lights that brighten and dishwashers that churn at the mere touch of a smartphone app?

These marvelously modern appliances are where the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and home automation products converge. And while there is no question in anyone’s mind as to the convenience and security benefits that their remote monitoring capabilities bring, these “smart” systems also come with their own unique set of risks.

Defined as a “network of networks of uniquely identifiable endpoints (things)” that are capable of communicating without any human interaction using IP connectivity, the ecosystem of the IoT is the midst of rapid changes. Just as individuals might utilize the web to communicate with one another, your home appliances, security systems, and utilities can now interact and coordinate functions without your constant input. These web-connected devices can also be monitored and controlled while you’re away, making IoT-enabled gadgets much more efficient and user-friendly than anything that’s ever come before.

However, if you’re a savvy consumer, you’ll have done your research and come to find that Internet-augmented products also offer unprecedented opportunities for hackers and cybercriminals to obtain your personal data. One major problem lies in the fact that many of the wireless communications used by home systems utilize outdated or insecure safety protocols by default. Some products come pre-set with usernames and passwords—such as “admin” —that can easily be exploited by someone with only basic computer knowledge.

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