It was just a few years ago that a “Smart Home” had to have CAT5e (Category 5 enhanced) cables pre-installed so that the home could be easily networked.
This cost a lot of money, and could be complicated to configure.
Change occurred quickly though, and our homes are filled with electronic devices which communicate with each other, their manufacturers, and even with us through our smartphones and devices.
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With all of that technology comes the need to understand security.
I’m often asked if having a Smart Home is safe or not, and truthfully there is nothing wrong with having a Smart Home as long as you are a smart homeowner.
These days, there are countless “smart” options for securing windows, exterior doors, garage doors and even specific rooms within the home. The smart homeowner is rarely the one that pays the lowest price in this category.
It is important to research the type of lock you want, as well as what security features the lock has, who the manufacturer is, and what happens when the electricity goes out.
Believe it or not, there have been instances in which the power went out and all of the locks stopped working. There have also been instances where the battery backup failed, or the door considered itself locked while being physically open.
Make sure the locks are compatible with each other if you are using more than one. And finally, it is critical to use key codes that are not common to you or easy to figure out.
More and more households are installing cameras and in many cases, the homeowners are opting to install wireless camera systems in order to minimize their costs. However, wireless cameras can be manipulated, and most people wouldn’t know if they had been hacked.
Whenever possible, I strongly recommend a wired camera system with remote viewing capabilities – installed professionally with password protection in place. If you plan to install the cameras yourself, and/or use wireless cameras, then please make sure that you understand that it is possible for someone with the right equipment to see your camera feeds. Passwords will reduce the risks to your privacy, but they will not eliminate them.
Smart Doorbells / Ring:
Video doorbells such as Ring are increasing in popularity. These devices operate as a normal doorbell, except that they can in some cases record video when they detect motion and/or they transmit image and/or sound when someone interacts with the doorbell.
These devices are very helpful and useful; however, they have a high purchase price and a monthly service fee in order to record video or collect information. They also tend to store information in the cloud, so it is critical to use a unique password, be aware of the ongoing costs for service, and understand if the system will still record if the power goes out.
The new Smart Home wouldn’t be complete without a fridge that knows when you’re out of milk, right? My best advice for smart appliances is for you to review what data is transferred, how often it’s collected, if you can turn the smart feature off/control it, and if you can password-protect each appliance.
There have been occasions where these appliances have been used by the manufacturer to advertise to the users, and in some cases, hackers have exploited these devices to monitor users.
Smart Assistants: (Alexa, Google Home, etc.)
There is a lot to say about the pros and cons of Smart Assistants, which is why I’ve written a separate article on them. What I will say here is that if you use them, make sure you understand the security features and implement them according to the level of privacy that you wish to maintain.
The Last Word…
All of the items mentioned above require you to have a local internet connection, and in most cases, that internet connection needs to be wireless. So, whether or not you’re actively using these devices or not, they are frequently communicating with each other and with parties outside of your home. This means that:
A) you need to ensure that you have unlimited internet access or a plan that will accommodate their usage, and
B) you need to make sure that each component, device, or appliance in your network is appropriately password protected.
In the event of a breakup, separation or divorce, you need to change all of those passwords immediately.