Device Hacking

November 7, 2018
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There is no doubt that home monitoring systems and smart speakers are the waves of the future. Yet, as helpful and convenient as these devices are, they are also far from impenetrable to thieves and hackers looking to cause harm.

Is Your Home Safe From Hackers?

From wireless speakers to baby monitors to home alarms, hackers pose a serious threat to your home’s security without actually setting foot inside your door. As technology continues to advance, hackers are finding new and more clever ways to access your financial and personal information, stooping as low as spying on people through video and audio surveillance. While some of these individuals are electronic thieves only looking to steal your money, other hackers are predators watching innocent families who believe they are in the privacy of their own homes.

Vulnerable Smart Speakers

You may think that only Alexa is listening when you shout out your musical requests, but unfortunately, that may not be the case. Approximately 47.3 million American adults have access to a smart speaker according to TechCrunch, and all of these could be vulnerable to hacking attacks of various proportions.

Smart speakers have become the perfect bugging device for hackers that homeowners are installing all on their own. Depending on what type of smart speaker you purchase and what it is programmed to do, hackers could…

  • gain access to banking information
  • follow personal schedules
  • unlock front doors
  • turn on lights
  • open garage doors
  • listen in on daily activity in your home
  • randomly play audio content without commands

A family in Portland, Oregon received a phone call this Spring that their Amazon Echo device had been hacked. Apparently, the device had been listening and recording their conversations in the home, and silently sent voice recordings to a caller without the family’s permission or command. It was later discovered that this flaw is common with the Amazon Echo and similar devices mean to respond to voice commands.

WiFi Home Security System Scares

Over the last few years, the demand for wireless alarms and home security systems has skyrocketed. Homeowners want the ability to lock their doors from their phone wherever they are, but these conveniences may also give hackers the ability to open your door from wherever they are. An article published by ProtectAmerica revealed there are approximately 73,000 home security cameras in the IP camera domain that are unsecured and waiting for hackers to control the devices.

Cell phone security apps are another easy way for hackers to access your home security system. Apps that allow users to control functions in their home via wireless connection can lack security protections. Most of the security companies allow third-party developers to make and sell compatible apps for their systems, but these apps are often unencrypted and leave wide open doors for security breaches.

Wireless alarm systems are also at risk of hacking. According to an article published in WIRED, security researchers admit that even the top-selling wireless home alarms can be easily manipulated. Their research found that because most of the systems fail to encrypt the signals between the sensors and the control panel that trigger the alarm to activate, a hacker can easily intercept the data and manipulate it in a way that allows them to enter your home without the alarm company ever being alerted to the intrusion.

Baby and Pet Monitors Spies

New research published by Israel’s Ben-Gurion University and released in March of this year showed that baby monitors, which some people also use for their pets, are terrifyingly easy to hack. Predators are not only taking the opportunity to hack into cameras to watch people in their homes, some even go as far as interacting with your children through audio capabilities!

Just this October, a New York family’s feeling of security was shattered when their son’s video monitor was hacked. Their 5-year-old boy was frightened when the voice of a stranger began to speak to him through the Nest monitor in his playroom, a system that can be accessed via cell phone with the ability to talk back and forth. The system was set up around the family’s home to keep an eye on their son- they never thought a stranger would be watching them and have no idea how long he had been spying.

How To Prevent Device Hacking

You don’t have to stop using Alexa or throw out your baby monitor to avoid hackers in your home. There are a number of ways to prevent your devices from being hacked that will still allow you to enjoy these technological advances to the fullest. Tom’s Guide suggests using these tips to protect your smart-home from being hacked:

  • Change Passwords: Researchers of the Ben-Gurion University study showed that most consumers neglect to change the default password on their smart-home device. Most devices share the same few default passwords and they can be found easily using search engines such as Google. Always set a new password when you connect a smart-home device and make it strong and original to reduce the chance of hackers guessing it.
  • Know The Hacks: Before buying any smart-home device, research the risks. Some devices have known hacks that users should be aware of before activating the speaker in their homes to reduce the threat of hackers gaining access.
  • Consider Digital or Analog: If you are looking into a monitoring system, consider whether or not you really need a WiFi device or if a digital or analog monitor would do the job. These products may pick up some static interference from too many devices on the same channel, but at least there won’t be any strangers watching your children sleep.
  • Avoid Third Party Access: Avoid any model of smart-home security device that does not regulate third-party access. Using apps offered directly by the company who sells the device can also help reduce your risk of a security breach.
  • Stay Updated: If your smart-device or system requires software updates or firmware updates, keep them current. This will reduce your risk of being hacked and make sure your security system is uninterrupted.
  • Stationery Products: To avoid hackers physically tampering with your smart-home devices, looking into products that can not be easily moved or tampered with. This will reduce the risk of someone being able to access your home just by bringing a screwdriver to manipulate your system.

Lastly, always buy your smart-home devices direct. With Black Friday rounding the corner, it may be tempting to buy a knock-off device or discounted brand-name device from an unknown seller at a low price. However, knock-off smart-home devices or even brand-name devices can be easily tampered with, allowing hackers instant access to your home the moment you turn them on.

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