The Convenience of Smart Home Automation Could Compromise Security

Smart home installations are projected to reach 21.5 million homes by 2017, according to the the Second Edition of Research and Markets Smart Homes and Home Automation study.

Many security experts warn about security vulnerabilities tied to individual single-function digital devices (like light controls) and fully-automated smart homes.

But there is mounting evidence to suggest that all of those convenience features make it easier for criminals to gain access to your home.

Craig Heffner, a vulnerability researcher from Maryland, demonstrated system weaknesses that electronic thieves leverage to gain access to your personal data via home security systems during the 2013 Black Hat Conference. His presentation notes caution consumers that even some of the best known brands in the surveillance world are not immune to attacks that allow frame-freeze and interruption or modification of streaming surveillance.

How Smart is Your Home?

Smart home technology adds comfort and convenience, but these devices with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity present some unique security challenges.

Trustwave SpiderLabs reported that the spectacular $4,000 INAX Satis toilet, a Japanese toilet equipped with computerized water temperature controls and high-quality stereo sound features, is vulnerable to remote hackers via a Bluetooth security issue in the companion Android app. A skilled hacker could simply download the fixture app and wreak havoc in the house by activating continuous flushing — which could result in higher bills and possible overflow problems.

Inviting in the Riff Raff

Hackers routinely take a war-drive (cruising communities looking for easy targets) through neighborhoods to check for system vulnerability. Remote door lock technology, light monitoring systems and water temperature controls are often easy targets for professional hackers. Hackers look for crackable code — vulnerabilities in the security software that allow them to hijack your passwords or modify your programmed security features.

If you connect your devices to a personal network, it isn't a very far jump from hijacking water temperature control to accessing your personal information on the PC in your home. Access is gained by hacking the network and finding the line address for administrative functions. Online hackers can move about the network to locate lock codes, security keys and passwords for connected devices.

Posting to Twitpic opens the door for hackers with default EXIF (exchangable image file) information unless you opt out. Hanni Fakhoury from the Electronic Frontier Foundation says that even though Flickr allows users to disable personal data, which can be used to track down your home address, many don't take the time to do so. Disable geotracking on all photos and your camera.

Getting Security Right

Compare security companies. Ask questions before you sign a home security contract. For instance, if you find a plan you like through Security Choice, ask what security measures the company takes to protect your home from digital thieves. Find out if they offer 24/7 monitoring, and ask how they notify you if they see a potential threat or emergency.

Beef up your Wi-Fi network encryption protocol. Replace older routers that may have network encryption problems. Newer technology offers capabilities that allow you to isolate some devices from communicating on an open network for greater security.