The number of people installing smart home security systems on the rise, it makes us wonder if it’s the inevitable bandwagon we too need to jump on. Before we make that decision, we need to be well-informed about these systems. It’s not just a trend, smart home security systems are meant to protect your loved ones and your property.
To grasp a better understanding of the risks smart home security devices can pose and what we can do about it, we have brought in the experts on online security.
Vulnerable to Hacking
“Smart security systems have only recently gained popularity, and considering that you get way more features and control for less money, it isn’t surprising that smart security systems are fast becoming more popular than conventional security systems. However, it is essential that the consumer understands the risks involved before investing in such a system. The two main types of smart security systems you can get are; wireless and wired in. Wireless tends to be the most affordable, but when it comes to security, you don’t want to prioritize low price over quality. Wired systems are more expensive as they require expert installation, and these systems are generally more secure and can add to the resale value of your home. The main risk you face regardless of what system you choose is that any online system is vulnerable to hacking. Whereas conventional security systems are set and forget, smart security systems will require you to be involved and understand how to keep your networks secure. Further to this point, you are trusting that the company you bought the product from won’t breach your privacy. Even though there is an increased risk of hacking, there are a number of steps you can take to curtail and minimize your chances of being targeted. The main thing is to be sure of what you are buying, research the product and company thoroughly. Other risks to consider is that many of these systems require a strong consistent Wi-Fi connection to work, and can only be installed within a certain range of your router. When it comes specifically to smart locks- if a hacker gains access to your network they might even be able to unlock your doors. That is why it is essential to learn and implement strategies to secure your home network effectively.”
Chris Papenfus, Founder Mission Smart Home
Hacking, False Alarms and a lack of Privacy
“Hackings: Unfortunately, smart home security systems can be hacked, as can anything that’s connected to the internet. No or weak passwords, no authentication, no encryption, lost devices and data breaches can cause security systems to be hacked. Companies like ADT, SimpliSafe and Ring Alarm have all been hacked in the past, which is troubling as these are some of the most popular smart home security systems. False alarms: Many security systems have false alarms, especially if the monitors or cameras are either too sensitive or can’t differentiate between people and other moving objects. If the smart security system has 24/7 professional monitoring, false alarms could lead to the monitoring center contacting emergency services unnecessarily, which could result in fines. Lack of privacy: Hacking can lead to a lack of privacy. For example, Ring cameras were hacked, allowing hackers to see other users’ live streams. Cameras connected with voice assistants like Alexa are also prone to a lack of privacy, as Amazon employees have listened to Alexa recordings to improve the AI, admittedly. Those concerned with surveillance and privacy should not invest in smart home security systems, cameras in particular.”
Aliza Vigderman is a Senior Editor and Industry Analyst at home security, digital security and smart home technology website, Security.org.
Risks when Power or Wi-Fi goes down
“Smart home security systems are generally a good option, they’re easy to build, easy to scale and customize, and don’t come with high installation costs or ongoing fees. But there are some downsides. Firstly, professional security systems usually include backup power and a hard line to the monitoring service, so they’re unlikely to be interrupted when you need them. Smart home systems tend to be reliant on the internet (probably via Wi-Fi), and your normal home electricity supply. A determined attacker can render your system ineffective by using a radio jamming device. This can knock out any Wi-Fi-based cameras or sensors you have while they do their thing. Cloud-connected devices often provide notifications to you if the device goes offline, but this can take some time to be noticed by their systems. Even if you get notified in time, you’ll have no idea if it’s important or just a routine internet outage somewhere. If it is a break-in you’ll have no evidence of it, so your expensive smart gear would have been useless. Power is the other issue, and similarly, an attacker can simply turn off the power at the switchboard. That will usually kill any hubs your system is dependent on, and take out your internet connection and Wi-Fi. Again, the system will be rendered useless. Both these issues can be addressed to some extent. Locks on the switchboard, and backup power supplies for your key hubs, router and modem. Using wired cameras can also help. There are options in that space, but they come with more complexity and installation cost.”
David Mead, Founder LinkdHome, where he focuses on smart home tech and network security
Exploiting Loopholes to Disable Smart Homes Security Systems
“There’s no doubt smart homes make our lives easier. Video doorbells, smart security cameras and more, but it does come with its risks, as does any device connected to the internet. When purchasing a device, ensure they come with a great security reputation because if not, they may have loopholes present that savvy hackers can exploit. For example, hackers could access your system to disable security cams and smart locks to allow physical intruders to enter your property or even simply lock you out of your home. There’s even been examples of hackers hijacking unencrypted data. Once they’ve gained access to the system they can actively tamper with security camera footage and replace it perhaps with altered footage to avoid detection. In order to avoid potential breaches ensure you’re enabling two-factor authentication on all devices, use randomized passwords on every platform and always keep updating, be that software updates or replacing old, outdated routers.”
Eoin Piggott is a data security expert at Wisetek