There has been a lot of buzz in the media surrounding smart homes and all the new technology we now have access to. As a smart home owner I am the first to acknowledge all the cool things I can do from the power of my smart phone or through voice control with these devices. “Hey Alexa, lock the front door”. “Hey Google adjust the thermostat to 21 degrees Celsius”. Pretty cool huh? Not so fast. Although the capabilities of these technologies are quite sophisticated the security and privacy may not be. We are starting to see more and more cyber attacks on smart home technology and personal computers.
How Does Smart Home Technology Work?
A good place to start is The Internet of Things, which refers to the products or things that are interconnected through the internet, allowing them to send and receive data. The smart products in your home are the “things” in this case that we would like to track or monitor. These products or things use a communication method known as Internet Protocol, or IP for short, to communicate over a wireless network or the internet. This allows us to exchange data and monitor those devices or systems from a web browser or data enabled device like your smart phone, from anywhere in the world. But that is the scary part.
Smart Homes Makes Your Home More Secure
It is true that a lot of the smart home technology is actually designed to give you better control over your home and make it more secure and private. No longer do you keep your front door key under the welcome mat at your front step. Instead, you may have security cameras or smart locks on your doors that you can monitor and control from anywhere using your smartphone. However, in a recent investigation by Marketplace their study shows that the convenience of a smart home may come at a cost to your privacy.
Smart Home Hacking
Marketplace used a team of 3 hackers to try and infiltrate a smart home. Within 2 hours the hackers had access to the passwords required to access the system and unlocked the front door. Thanks to the smart homes security cameras they were also able to view what was happening inside the home. They also used the homes Amazon Alexa to order items off of the Amazons store using the stored credit card information on the system. The time and took and the relative ease of completing all of these tasks is certainly concerning for homeowners.
Can You Prevent These Cyber Hacks?
There are methods to make it much more difficult to hack into a system. However, most of us, including myself like the convenience and ease of using the same password for everything. It is always recommended to use different passwords for different systems but this can be difficult. There are solutions out there that you can purchase called password managers. With these solutions you only need one password to login to all of your systems. Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound more secure? Password managers use two-factor authentication to login, which is a more secure way to login into a system. What two-factor authentication does is if someone tries to login to your account from a new device, a code is automatically sent to the trusted device to authenticate that you are trying to login on that new device. Without the code you can’t access the account, even if they have your password.
Why Don’t The Smart Devices Include Two-Factor Authentication?
Most of the smart home systems have their own two-factor authentication built in but it is not the default option and users have to proactively select the feature and activate it for it to work. The manufactures want setup of their device to be convenient and easy for users but it should not be at the expense of your privacy. Having the know-how to properly setup this additional security and secure your smart home devices is important.
Cyber Protection For Your Home Insurance
Personal cyber attacks are becoming more and more common. Simply having a smartphone puts you at risk. As the world continues adding more smart devices and things like smart homes continue becoming more and more popular that risk becomes even greater. Luckily, the insurance world has started to recognize this and you may now be eligible for personal cyber protection on your home insurance policy. The cyber protection varies from company to company but is in place to cover the following threats:
Coverage to pay for the recovery of data or restore systems that have been damaged or lost due to an attack involving a computer or connected home device.
Example: You open an email that appears to be from your bank. You open the document and now your computer has a bad virus. Because of the virus you need to restore your computer and reinstall the software and all your applications. This caused you to lose all your old files.
Designed to provide professional assistance and reimbursement in response to cyber extortion demands such as ransomware or other extortion’s.
Example: A ransom note pops up on your computer saying your files are locked. The only way to get them back is to pay $1,000. If payment is not received all the files will be leaked or destroyed. You pay the $1,000 and a technology firm to investigate the attack and ensure that no viruses were left and that you have proper security in place to protect from attacks like this in the future.
Coverage for a direct financial loss as a result of online information being exchanged or hacked.
Example: You receive an email from your grandson who you know is travelling abroad. The email says your grandson’s passport has expired and he will need $2,000 to get a new one or he will be held captive. Fearing for your grandson, you transfer the money, only to find out this was sent from a hacker.
Coverage that notifies and pays for services to affected individuals in the event that third party private personal data entrusted to a household resident is breached.
Example: You coach your child’s hockey team and gather all the player’s information including their address and date of birth and store it on a spreadsheet on your tablet. On a road trip you forget your tablet at the arena and it is never recovered. Fearing that the families of the team might become victims of identity theft you call your lawyer who advises you you to notify the families and provide them with fraud alert services.
Insurance is designed to give you peace of mind. If you are concerned about your privacy or potential cyber attacks contact your insurance broker. Smart homes are designed to make your life easier and we want to make sure they do!