A Smart Home Might Be a Dumb Idea
Smart home devices are convenient, but they can also create serious security risks.
A homeowner recently filed a lawsuit against the doorbell company Ring after a hacker accessed his camera and talked to his children. Baby monitors have been hacked, too. And by shining a laser, hackers can do apparently do anything from open a garage door to make purchases on an Alexa.
The companies themselves have the potential collect and record a lot of data about how the devices are used. With all the privacy concerns lately, what makes smart homes so … smart?
The overall risks of using the “Internet of things,” everyday devices connected to the Internet, don’t seem to be deterring customers. Over 41 million households in the U.S. have smart devices, and the number is only expected to grow over time.
The devices themselves range from doorbell cameras, thermostats, and light bulbs, to locks, motion sensors, and responsive speakers. There’s even a smart showerhead coming out this year.
There are multiple benefits to smart devices. A smart thermostat or light bulbs can be controlled through your phone, so you can turn them off when they’re not needed. A camera can help you monitor your home while you’re away, providing security.
My home became “smart” a few years ago, with some Google Home speakers and wifi-enabled light bulbs. (Who knew I’d spent my life using dumb light bulbs?) I can ask the smart speaker to turn the lights off and on, and some lights will turn on automatically at sunset. It’s helpful because I often arrive home when it’s dark.
I still have some reservations about smart speakers recording what I say. And I haven’t gone for a full smart home, because of both cost and privacy issues.
Awhile back, I was getting a home energy audit, and I asked about the smart thermostat the company had partnered with. The technician explained the benefits (possible savings) with some of the risks: the company could remotely access my thermostat, and turn the temperature up or down. The competitor, Nest, is apparently great with privacy, but this came with being more expensive.
I ended up leaving my old thermostat in place. It works just fine.
The key to improve privacy is to do your research about items, and be aware of their security flaws.
Often, people don’t secure their home wifi or don’t change the default password on their accounts, leaving them vulnerable to people snooping on their cameras or other devices.
Some cameras can also connect to your phone, and will automatically turn off when you’re home and turn on when you leave. This gives consumers the benefits of security with fewer privacy risks.
There’s still the risk of technology companies collecting lots of data about you, but smart devices aren’t going away anytime soon.
Do your research and take some simple precautions, and you can make your home smart as well as safe.