Cy­ber Insider

Smart de­vices are in­creas­ingly be­ing used for ha­rass­ment and abuse. Cy­ber Insider of­fers some tips on how to pro­tect your­self and your fam­ily from such be­hav­iour

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS -

Smart de­vices are in­creas­ingly be­ing used as tools for do­mes­tic abuse, with per­pe­tra­tors chang­ing set­tings to con­fuse and ha­rass their vic­tims, and cam­eras be­ing used to spy on peo­ple. How can such ac­tions be stopped?

THERE’S A DIS­TURB­ING new trend go­ing on with smart de­vices: do­mes­tic abuse. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port in the

New York Times, this kind of abuse is on the in­crease. Women re­ported how their air con­di­tion­ing would sud­denly turn off, or their smart lock would change codes on a daily ba­sis. In all cases, there was con­fu­sion un­til the truth came out: a part­ner who had ac­cess to the tech­nol­ogy was de­lib­er­ately chang­ing set­tings to con­fuse, ha­rass and de­lib­er­ately scare their vic­tims.

Be­yond this, there have been cases of smart cam­eras be­ing used to spy on peo­ple, fur­ther breach­ing trust and con­fi­den­tial­ity. It’s a ter­ri­fy­ing sit­u­a­tion and one that could well spread fur­ther.

HOME ALONE

As smart de­vices get in­stalled into more houses, imag­ine buy­ing a new one only to find that the pre­vi­ous owner can still con­trol your heat­ing or spy on the front door. Per­haps the last bit of the sale went a bit wrong, and now the pre­vi­ous owner is out to get you, mess­ing around with your in­ter­nal con­trols and set­tings.

Sim­i­larly with rented ac­com­mo­da­tion. If you move in, do you re­ally have full con­trol over ev­ery­thing, or is the land­lord sit­ting there mon­i­tor­ing your move­ments or turn­ing down the heat­ing to save on costs?

It’s not just home de­vices, ei­ther. Some cars have con­nected sys­tems that let you lock and un­lock them re­motely, as well as track them us­ing GPS. Tech­ni­cally, when buy­ing a sec­ond-hand car, the dealer should re­set the sys­tem, but I wouldn’t put bets on it.

The wide­spread abuse of smart de­vices is upon us and the sit­u­a­tion is only likely to get worse. Un­for­tu­nately, it’s not an easy thing to fix.

To make hand­ing con­trol of a smart de­vice to a new per­son eas­ier would also make it eas­ier for hack­ers to gain con­trol, and that would be just as bad a sit­u­a­tion, if not worse.

While the man­u­fac­tur­ers and pol­i­cy­mak­ers try to sort things out, you can take mat­ters into your own hands. With a lit­tle bit of knowl­edge, you can help friends and fam­ily stay on the right side of smart de­vices.

DE­VICE SQUAD

In your own home, it’s es­sen­tial that ev­ery­one old enough to use them has ac­cess to the smart apps that con­trol de­vices. Many de­vices sup­port mul­ti­ple user ac­counts, so you can grant ac­cess to other peo­ple and see who changed what when.

More im­por­tant than di­rect con­trol, ev­ery­one hav­ing the same apps means it’s clearer what has been in­stalled in the house, and what it does. It also puts con­trol into ev­ery­one’s hands, let­ting them see what’s hap­pen­ing in the house and why.

Se­cu­rity cam­eras are a great idea for pro­tect­ing your home, but any use should be con­trolled: what time the cam­eras will op­er­ate, what will trig­ger them, and what their pur­pose is. Again, all apps for se­cu­rity cam­eras (in­clud­ing smart door­bells) should be shared through the fam­ily. That way, it’s clear what’s go­ing on, and ev­ery­one has the op­por­tu­nity to shut off a cam­era when they want to.

A NEW BEGIN­NING

In­stalling smart de­vices care­fully in your own home is one thing, but what about when you buy a new house that has al­ready been kit­ted out? Tak­ing a prag­matic ap­proach will help you out.

Now, many smart de­vices will stop work­ing when you change the wire­less router: this will stop smart kit from be­ing able to con­nect to the in­ter­net. But don’t rely on this alone, as not all smart de­vices work this way. The Philips Hue sys­tem, for ex­am­ple, uses a Bridge that plugs in via Eth­er­net to your home net­work. As long as that Bridge is con­nected and hasn’t been re­set, it will con­tinue to com­mu­ni­cate with the old owner. This is true of any de­vice that has an Eth­er­net port. For de­vices that have a built-in SIM, such as some alarm sys­tems, an in­ter­net con­nec­tion is not tech­ni­cally needed.

The key thing is to fac­to­ryre­set all de­vices and set them up from scratch. The process dif­fers from de­vice to de­vice, but if you search on­line for the prod­uct man­ual for any prod­uct, you’ll find the re­set pro­ce­dure there. Make sure you do a full re­set; just re­set­ting net­work set­tings and con­nect­ing a de­vice to your net­work won’t re­move the pre­vi­ous owner’s ac­cess: in fact, you’ll have just brought a de­vice back on­line for them to see.

It pays to make any smart kit part of a con­tract to buy­ing a place. That con­tract should state that the pre­vi­ous owner re­vokes all rights to use the kit and that they’ll pro­vide de­tails of the re­set pro­ce­dure and any ver­i­fi­ca­tion re­quired.

Stiffer pun­ish­ments for peo­ple that abuse smart de­vices should be looked at, too, as this is­sue is some­thing that’s go­ing to grow and grow as more smart de­vices are sold.

There have been cases of smart cam­eras be­ing used to spy on peo­ple, fur­ther breach­ing trust and con­fi­den­tial­ity. It’s a ter­ri­fy­ing sit­u­a­tion and one that could well spread fur­ther

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