Smart-Home Hackers: How to Secure Your Home Automation System from Digital Invaders
A hacker digitally invades a wealthy couple’s home automation system and uses the high-tech amenities to wreak havoc, with fatal results. This scenario comes from a recent episode of the futuristic police drama “Almost Human” – although some dire pronouncements might create the impression that it could be coming soon to a smart-home to you.
Like other emerging technology, home automation has drawn the attention of hackers. Bear in mind that “hacker” isn’t a one-size-fits-all term. Hackers who identify themselves with the “white hat” label put new systems to the test to find problems that the public should know about, while their “black hat” counterparts focus on malicious activities. Members of the former group have taken a run at various smart-home products as a way to encourage good security standards.
In some cases, they’ve found glaring lapses with systems that didn’t adequately protect their online networks.
Before your mind starts conjuring up images of your thermostat and garage door opener going rogue, take a moment to put things in context.
A lot of the more alarming horror stories involved outdated products that were probably well on their way to becoming obsolete in the first place. Also, taking on a high-quality home automation system isn’t really a job suited to a run-of-the-mill hacker. It may well require special tools that are hard to come by even in the digital underworld.
Most importantly, the efforts of the white hat contingent have had the desired effect – increasing awareness. The public is paying attention to these problems, and so are the businesses vying for a stake in the billion-dollar home automation industry.
Meanwhile, what steps can you take in pursuit of making your smart-home hack-proof? Here’s a brief list of do’s and don’ts.
- DO choose a home automation provider that has tested the security of its systems and requires users to log in through a secure web portal.
- DON’T use default usernames or passwords (good advice for any kind of online activity).
- DO make certain that the wireless network your home automation and home alarm systems have access to is secured (WPA2 encryption or something even stronger).
- DON’T neglect the confidentiality of your log-in information. The same goes for any device that you use to access your automation system, including smartphones.