Se­cure your smart home

Smart homes can pose a se­cu­rity risk if not prop­erly pro­tected.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By BENEDIKT WENCK

TECH­NOL­OGY in the home is get­ting smarter. These days, you can op­er­ate your light­ing, kitchen ap­pli­ances, ther­mostats and even smoke de­tec­tors us­ing apps on a smart­phone or tablet – but a net­worked smart home is open to a range of se­cu­rity threats, just like a PC.

Ac­cord­ing to Maik Mor­gen­stern from AV-Test, an in­de­pen­dent se­cu­rity risk eval­u­a­tor, there are two main threats. “Firstly, peo­ple can get ac­cess and then the de­vices can be re­mote-con­trolled or blocked. And sec­ondly, recorded data can also be col­lected.”

This may pose a prob­lem when it comes to mo­tion de­tec­tors or cam­eras, be­cause crim­i­nals would be able to see when some­one is home.

One method used by crim­i­nals is to hi­jack smart de­vices and con­nect them to a so-called “bot­net”. Then they will launch DDoS (Dis­trib­uted De­nial of Ser­vice) at­tacks, prompt­ing the hi­jacked de­vices to ac­cess a web­site at the same time and caus­ing its servers to crash.

“If a DDoS at­tack with a de­vice is car­ried out on a third-party, the user’s line may be over­loaded,” says Mor­gen­stern.

He says it’s likely that laws will be adopted in the fu­ture to ad­dress the is­sue. “If that were the case, users could be re­quired to prove that they have made an effort in terms of se­cu­rity.” Al­ter­na­tively, the man­u­fac­turer could be forced to take on this re­spon­si­bil­ity.

But what can users do now? Aside from se­cu­rity marks used by some man­u­fac­tur­ers, it may be dif­fi­cult for them to tell if a de­vice is safe, says Mor­gen­stern.

How­ever, users can pay at­ten­tion to cer­tain things dur­ing setup. “Def­i­nitely set your own pass­words – even if that isn’t re­quired,” says Mor­gen­stern.

He also rec­om­mends us­ing a sep­a­rate net­work for the smart home. “Some­times, it’s pos­si­ble to set up a sec­ond WiFi net­work on a router, which you can then use for these de­vices.”

This way, you can pre­vent mal­ware spread­ing from a PC. Of course, you should pro­tect the WiFi net­work with a safe pass­word you have cho­sen your­self, he says.

Users should also check their de­vices reg­u­larly. “I would rec­om­mend once a month – as well as any time that some­thing seems odd,” says Mor­gen­stern. Users can also find in­for­ma­tion on the man­u­fac­turer’s web­site.

If a new ver­sion of the soft­ware doesn’t come out for six months or even a year, that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily cause for panic. “But you should def­i­nitely pay at­ten­tion if there are re­ports of at­tacks in the me­dia,” Mor­gen­stern says. — dpa

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