Wednesday, September 25, 2019

How smart homes endanger our privacy

White Speaker On Surface

Today we live in a society where the role of smart gadgets grows exponentially. Connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), these devices can operate without much human input.

Like with any new technology, the increase in the sales of smart home devices is partially bolstered by hype. On the other hand, it’s impossible to deny their convenience: for the majority of its users, smart home technology saves at least half an hour a day—and a thousand dollars per year. With the ability to task a gadget with cleaning, washing, cooking, and doing other chores while you’re away from your home, this technology will likely keep on growing.

Smart devices also pose a lot of dangers to their users, however. In fact, every smart home not properly secured is a ticking privacy time-bomb in more ways than any “not-smart” abode could ever be.

For a smart home to work, it has to create an entire system of connections between its devices. And they all are collecting information about their users and storing it, often without much thought put into its security.

Massive-scale attacks on IoT devices and environments are not unheard of. It’s not surprising because of how tempting they are for hackers: their security measures are lacking more frequently than those of traditional computers, and they hold immense amounts of private data.

For instance, some smart door locks come with facial recognition mechanisms built into them. Undoubtedly, such locks are easier to use than a regular key or even a password that can be used in other varieties of smart locks.

However, they do encroach on people’s privacy as they can be used against their owners. If hacked into, they can potentially leak tons of data to the bad actors. Then, this information can be easily used in surveillance purposes.

That’s not the only threat that lousy smart home security practices can pose. Another one is a new level of ransomware aimed at IoT gadgets. It’s one thing to have your important files locked away by an extortionist, and completely another one to have the same extortionist take control of the condition system in your house. While the former is, all things considered, an inconvenience in most cases, the latter would be a borderline physical threat.

A voice assistant such as Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant is often an integral part of a smart home. Its purpose is allowing you to control other devices with your voice, but to do that, it has to listen for what you are saying. Even if you trust the manufacturer of your voice assistant not to use this situation to spy on you, cases of people gaining access to other users’ recordings have been reported.

There are some ways to protect one’s smart home.

One of the dangers of the IoT is the interception of data that is transmitted between smart devices. To prevent it, you can encrypt your traffic and hide your IP address by using a virtual private network on a router. With this measure taken, it would be impossible for an attacker to get a hold of your private information.

Next, all of your smart devices should be updated to their respective latest versions. Unpatched gadgets often have crucial vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

It’s necessary to remember that the battle between developers and hackers is ongoing. Sadly, no one-time solutions exist that can forever keep you safe.

Another tip is to try and keep away from devices that collect too much info, if possible. It may be tempting to command your little army of household bots with nothing but your voice, but it would put your privacy in danger.

The same goes for devices that rely on facial recognition and biometrics. Their convenience is negated by the possibilities of surveillance that they open.

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