Just how safe are ’smart’ devices?

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Tuesday July 15, 2014 at 2:00pm
We live in an increasingly connected world. Devices are constantly being introduced to the market which make our lives easier and give us greater control over our environment, our communication habits and every day chores.

Smart TV’s, WiFi controlled LED home lighting, Smart Fridges, driverless cars are all examples of what has been termed the Internet of Things. The internet is no longer restricted to desktops, phones and laptops. Technology is becoming more entwined with the physical world at an alarming rate.

An average household may contain internet connected devices or systems such as Smart TV’s, baby monitors, house alarms, CCTV systems, lighting, heating, washing machines, laptops, desktops, tablets and mobile phones.

One benefit of said devices is that you could monitor your home while away, checking CCTV footage and turning house lights on or off at will. Even British Gas are pushing their ‘Hive’ Active Heating with their annoying TV adverts. It lets you control your heating and hot water remotely from your smartphone, tablet and laptop.

It’s not all good news however.

With greater control come greater risks. Hackers could access your data before, now they can take over your physical environment. Companies are keen to break into the world of smart devices marketplace. Unfortunately some are rushing products to market with little or poorly implemented security features. Security needs to be built-in from the early stages of design.

The consequence of having such vulnerabilities in these devices is an attacker could hack a home owners web-based interface and disable alarms, spy on the owners via CCTV cameras, unlock doors, turn up heating etc.

Protect yourself when using smart devices

If you are using smart devices protecting your home WiFi is ever more important, and I would recommend only using WPA2 Encryption with a random strong password (using a password manager to store the credentials), disabling the SSID (wifi name identifier) and only allow known devices to connect to your internal network. I would certainly conduct thorough research into any smart device I was connecting to any network, to validate security features or the lack of as the case may be.

A dark market exists where hackers can purchase ‘point and click’ programs to make more sophisticated command line tools to exploit and hack such devices. Hackers used to find vulnerabilities for personal reward or kudos, now they attack systems for financial gain. Unfortunately the Internet of Things is providing an ever increasing attack surface for them to inflate their egos and their wallets. Stay safe and secure!

Marcus Allen
Parker Management Consultants

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