5 Privacy and Security Problems with Smart Homes [10 Safety Tips]

Deyan Georgiev
Deyan Georgiev

Updated · Nov 14, 2022

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State-of-the-art home gadgets and high-tech appliances are the future of homes — at least according to the numbers.

81% of US consumers said they are more likely to buy a home that features smart tech than not.

But, are they costing us our safety and security? 

Here are some of the biggest privacy and security problems with smart homes you should know if you’re considering upgrading to a smart home system.

Let’s dive in.

List of the 5 Privacy and Security Problems With Smart Homes

A smart home relies on internet-connected devices to autonomously open doors, turn the lights on, and even let you know when you’re running low on milk. (Read more on how smart technology works here.)

They’re convenient, fast, and highly customizable. But, they’re also riddled with security and privacy issues. 

Identity Theft

One of the main security issues with smart devices is they can be hacked. 

If your device lacks robust protections to prevent attacks, hackers can easily access it and steal the throve of data that your smart home devices hold, from your birth date to credit card details.

With that information, a digital thief can make unauthorized transactions and purchases in your name, like take out a mortgage, apply for credit cards, and impersonate you in any other way. 

Even if they don’t target you individually, hackers can infiltrate a smart-device company’s database and copy the data of all its users. 

Spying and Monitoring

It wouldn’t be a smart home without a smart voice assistant.

But, virtual assistant technologies have their faults.

For instance, Amazon’s Alexa is always listening to users, waiting to hear the wake word. Once the user utters the word to trigger an action, Alexa records the command and uploads it to the cloud.

Amazon even admitted that it hires people to listen to users talking to Alexa via Echo speakers (specifically, their recordings or requests) and transcribe those conversations, The Sun reported.

There was also one instance where Alexa recorded a private conversation and sent it to one of the users’ acquaintances without their knowledge, according to Bloomberg.

If someone hacks your smart voice assistant, they can gain access to every recording on it and make it so they keep listening to your conversations. 

In the same way, bad actors can intercept your security cameras or your Ring doorbell by accessing the network they use and spy on you.

For example, in 2020, Ring faced a lawsuit after a stranger talked to an 8-year-old through a hacked indoor security camera.

Location Tracking 

Some of the permissions that many smart devices require is access to your location. 

These devices usually store this information as a matter of convenience to the user. For example, manufacturers typically allow users to group devices by physical location.

But, since smart devices rely on the Internet of Things (IoT), they are susceptible to a breach.

Hackers can use stalkerware to monitor for data such as location. In the past, they have mostly duped users by tricking them into clicking on a malicious link that would then reveal their street address.

In most cases, they usually get access to this information by targeting the manufacturer, rather than individual users.

You might be interested in our thorough guide on IoT trends.

Data Manipulation

What allows hackers to get into a system and jeopardize smart home network security is that the data that’s being transmitted by smart devices in your home, like your TV or printer, is often unencrypted. 

If a bad actor infiltrates the network, they can not only steal data and hold it for ransom, but they can also alter it.

This means that someone who hopes to break into your home can replace the video feed on your surveillance camera with edited footage.

Third-Party Apps Flops

One of the biggest advantages of living in a smart home is that you can control a large portion of your smart devices remotely. This is usually possible via a third-party app.

The downside is apps whose developers haven’t made security their primary concern can open the door for cybercriminals who can take control of your home devices if they hack or get their hands on your phone.

Once they’re in, they can easily lock and unlock your front door or deactivate your security cameras and your alarms.

How to Improve Smart Home Safety and Prevent Spying

Smart technology makes life more convenient, but it collects a lot of our data. 

To boost your smart home cyber security and ensure maximum privacy:

  • Don’t divulge more data than you need to: Sharing minimal personal information with smart devices can ruin a bad actor’s attempt to steal your identity. Also, some smart devices come with apps that often ask for a long list of permissions, like access to your camera and microphone. If you don’t use them on that particular device, don’t allow access to them.
  • Set unique passwords and use two-factor authentication: Passwords that are more complex are harder to crack and a two-factor authentication makes sure that a bad actor would need to jump over an extra hoop to gain access to your information.
  • Use authorized apps only: Unauthorized apps may save you a few extra bucks, but can cost you more in the long run.
  • Periodically delete stored data: If a hacker eventually gets into your system, they’ll find much less data than they were hoping for.
  • Get File Integrity Monitoring (FIM): The system backup lets you verify its integrity by comparing it with the original and will alert you if it detects any unusual activity.
  • Update all of your devices: Manufacturers regularly release updates to patch vulnerabilities in the system.
  • Buy a secure Wi-Fi router: Finding a router that has a strong firewall or one that can work with a VPN will make sure that every device that’s connected to it can take advantage of its security. Here’s how to flash a router to install VPN and our top picks for the best routers with built-in VPN.
  • Avoid spammy links: Hackers typically gain access to cameras and microphones by phishing.
  • Disable your camera and microphone: If you want to prevent hackers from snooping on your activities, you can turn off your camera and microphone when you’re not using them. Alternatively, you can cover your camera with dark tape.
  • Turn off your Wi-Fi: Keeping your Wi-Fi on all the time makes it easier for cybercriminals to hack devices connected to the network and inject them with spyware.

What Are Your Rights?

Governments worldwide have introduced laws that allow users to have more control over their data.

The largest pieces of legislation that have to do with user privacy are the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

The GDPR dictates that companies can only collect, process, and store data that they absolutely need, and the CCPA allows users to ask organizations to provide the data they have on them and limit how they use it.

Bottom Line

Smart homes are becoming increasingly popular; It is estimated that the number of connected appliances by the end of 2022 will reach 13.1 billion. But the convenience of smart home devices comes at the expense of privacy.  There are many smart home privacy concerns, mostly because they use the Internet, which makes them vulnerable to attacks. The good news is there are some things you can do to minimize the risks.

FAQs.


Are smart homes safe?

Although a smart home is susceptible to hacking, bad actors would need the right technology and proximity to your Wi-Fi network to hack in. Public Wi-Fi networks are a much easier target.

What are the dangers of a smart home?

The privacy and security problems with smart homes stem from their use of Internet technologies. If a bad actor hacks into your network, they can steal your credit card information or identity, locate you, and spy on or monitor your activities.

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Deyan Georgiev

Deyan Georgiev

Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.

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