As Internet-connected devices in homes grow more popular, so do the risks of unwanted intruders
Is your refrigerator spying on you? Probably not. But online-security experts caution that homes with “smart” technology—thermostats, security cameras, lights and appliances that connect to the Internet—are vulnerable to being hacked.
In a recent survey of 4,065 adults in the U.S., real-estate brokerage Coldwell Banker Real Estate found that 45% of respondents own smart-home technology or plan to invest in it this year. Yet only recently has security become a priority. While there have been few reported incidents, online-security experts expect smart-home hacking to increase. Luxury homeowners—often early adopters of technology, executives with access to corporate data or simply wealthy individuals—can be appealing targets.
The risks range from relatively harmless (pranksters cranking up the heat) to outright criminal (disabling security cameras to orchestrate a break-in). One of the biggest dangers is that poorly secured smart-home devices could be used as a “backdoor” to gain access to more sensitive information.
Chubb Personal Risk Services, a division of the insurance firm, asks homeowners about protections on their home-automation systems as part of its initial client interview, and recommends ways to beef up security, said Don Culpepper, a premier risk specialist with Chubb based in Atlanta.
For the last couple of years, Seattle and San Francisco-based Concentric Advisors has provided corporate-level security services for homeowners. Services start at $500 a month and include setting up and monitoring home networks.
Basic steps that security experts recommend include: changing the password on your device from the default, protecting your WiFi network with a password and ensuring that your wireless router uses some form of encryption. If you have given a password to someone who should no longer have it (like a former dog-walker), it is important to change it immediately.
Architect Scott Jaffa, 53, installed a Crestron home-automation system in combination with a Lutron lighting system in his Park City, Utah, home to test the technology for potential clients. The system cost $135,000 in 2012. He chose the provider partly because of its reputation for tight security, and liked that the installation company could monitor the system remotely and shut it down in the event of fraudulent activity. “I’ve been very happy with the system,” he said
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