Smart Homes: How Hackers Strike Your Home

As we load our homes with smart thermostats, remote access, and disembodied voices inside boxes that are always listening, these internet-connected devices offer increasing pathways for digital intruders to break into our homes. And they do it often without leaving a sign until mysterious charges appear on our credit cards or someone applies for a mortgage in our name a thousand miles away.

Who’s Listening…or Watching?

Hardly a day goes by without a story of someone whose privacy has been violated via their internet connection. And as listening devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home proliferate, the stories get even scarier.

While misunderstood verbal commands (“Alexa, turn on the lights”) are rare, they’re not unheard of. And even if your digital roommate doesn’t get confused, sophisticated means of waking her up and causing mischief are being perfected.

According to an article recently published in The Hill, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, described how they could embed hidden silent commands into online recordings on video or music sites that would wake up personal voice assistants and send them malicious commands without the user ever being aware.

Who’s Speaking?

Part of the problem is that most voice-activated digital assistants don’t have software that lets them recognize who’s talking to them. Once awakened, they just listen and do what they’re told without knowing who’s doing the talking. If a hacker tells them to unlock the door or turn on an indoor camera, they just do it.

It’s not just voice-activated systems that are vulnerable, either. With so many devices connected by Wi-Fi, less secure points can be attacked remotely, giving hackers access to your entire network, including sensitive personal information. Yes, your refrigerator can be your enemy.

What’s Being Done?

Major manufacturers are aware of these vulnerabilities and are working to remedy them whenever they’re discovered. For the most part, devices made by larger US and other large western companies are secure…if you observe their safeguards. But cheaper items, especially off-brand items made in Asia, don’t have the same security standards and sometimes leave out needed protective measures.

What You Can Do

Even relatively secure devices require some effort on your part to keep your home network secure. Change manufacturer-furnished passwords to your own, make them hard to crack, and don’t use the same passwords on multiple accounts. If that seems overwhelming, use a password manager to keep track for you. A quick internet search will point you to several reviews and sources.

Only buy devices from sources you trust. Major companies are constantly working to improve the security of their connectable products. Read product reviews that rate security measures. Every connected item is a potential entryway into your network, and cheaper isn’t always better when your personal security is concerned.

Only connect over a secure Wi-Fi network with a robust password and a good firewall. And consider turning off unnecessary devices when they’re not in use. You don’t need your assistant listening when nobody’s home.

Connectivity is the wave of the future and Allstar Electrical Services has the expertise and experience to install or upgrade your home or business network safely and securely.

If you need to add or change a home network, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.