What are the risks of connected devices?

You cannot avoid it anymore when you move in and decide to furnish your home, you are systematically offered to equip your dwelling with different connected devices. From thermostats to security cameras as well as lights or TV sets, there are such devices for the whole household. You just need a smartphone to remotely monitor them through a local network connexion or the Internet. And that is where the problems come up: as all networks, your local connexion can be hacked into if you are not careful enough and your smart house can easily become a place anyone can come in both virtually and for real.

Democratization and risks

Some years ago, the home automation industry still was exclusively opened to customers with a lot of money. But this market has now largely become more accessible. It began with the interest in new phones, new TV sets and new generation computers. The devices makers made no mistake about it and they extended the connectivity to household appliances so far that you can now, through easy systems, control almost every devices or equipments in your house.

But if it represents a progress and above all a facilitation of the management of your house, there is still a significant drawback: as every devices connected to a network, those that allow us to adjust your heating system or trigger the security cameras run the risk of being hacked if not properly secured. For some months now, you can find on the Internet numerous studies pointing out the vulnerability of these devices and explaining how the hackers do to infiltrate the networks. Even though these studies are made first to raise awareness among the producers, the customers have to be look at them. These accounts show that the major issues are the lack of encryption for the exchanged data, the absence of secure passwords and an ineffectual protection.

Let’s remember that 9 connected devices in 10 are filled up with personal data, given by private individuals during the setting up of the device, that will then be accessible to anyone who would decide to hack one of the unprotected objects.

Significant examples

There are examples of intrusions in home automation through almost every connected devices, from the most used to the most famous ones.

The famous Nest Lab thermostat owned by Google was hacked by a team of American researchers who managed, via a physical access to the device, to embed a code into it in order to get back all the given information without anyone realizing anything, of course.

When talking about the hacking of connected devices, you have to look closer at the security cameras that are a direct access to the private lives of the customers. The most noteworthy example is the worldwide broadcasting of videos taken from webcams and security cameras installed by Trendnet, a specialist in connected devices.

To go on with images and pictures, connected TVs – or Smart TVs – are also easy targets for hackers. We have known for approximately three years now that it is possible, for lack of protection, to take control of the camera or the microphone on such a device.

Hackers have even gone further by targeting a baby alarm in a child’s room to « have fun » and frighten the baby and its parents.

An American specialist tackled the problem of the multifunction Rabbit Karotz by taking control of the camera and the microphone to spy on the owner.

To conclude on examples showing that every device is open to attack, the new WIFI lightbulbs have also been hacked; the hackers could enter the network and have access to the data in it.

Beyond the attacks strictly speaking, the connected devices also allow the gathering and the analysis of your information. Researchers have demonstrated by analyzing a Smart TV that it would suggest more and more targeted according to their expectations. After some research, they realized the TV was provided with a function of information gathering allowing the integrated program to spy on you during the day, in your privacy and consequently suggest adverts according to your habits and likings.

As you will have realized, there is an endless amount of examples of this kind. All the more so as the Internet now gives the people who would like to have fun with the connected devices of others an unprecedented access thanks to the search engine Shodan that enables to detect any connected equipment having an unhidden IP address. Another reason, if needed, to not forget the basics of protection that only require to create and change usernames and passwords. If not, the connected devices you are so proud to show off to your friends and family could rapidly make your life hell.

Preventable dangers

Home automation has become in few years a market which all the biggest brands of High-Tech are interested in, from Microsoft to Samsung, along with Google et so many more – the list being endless given the economic rise in this industry. None of these brands hesitate over putting money in buying innovative Start-Ups making it possible for them to go always further in their offers of new connected devices.

More than an industry, home automation has become essential and, in a few years’ time, our houses will be totally connected. This also explain the rising interest of cybercriminals trying to hack and spread viruses and malware through the network to which the objects are connected.

Even more serious, the more the connexions, the easier for them to infiltrate our privacy and daily life. Going as far as taking control over our new toys, spying on through our cameras, cutting off the power in our houses, deciding of the temperature and so on and so on.

Nevertheless, as every item connected to a network, those devices cans also be protected and fulfill their initial task: facilitate our lives. Naturally, we can wait for the manufacturers to do what is necessary but the user and the owner also have to ensure their own protection by reducing the ease of access to the devices they set up. A few research on the Internet or a call to a specialist in security are easy ways to have both a house at the cutting edge of technology and serene mind.