smart home

Why a Smart Home is also a Danger Zone

by Kevin Hawkins on January 31, 2015

Smart Home

A most provocative talk about Smart Homes and the dangers of the IoT (Internet of Things) kicked-off the first Hacker Connect in New York City last week. Molly Sauter, a PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar from Montreal’s McGill University, gave a presentation that scared the crap out of me when she dove into the dangers of today’s Smart Home. Now I’ve been a fan and even early adopter of affordable Smart Home tech: in the late 1980s, I had a wireless alarm system from Radio Shack and switches that allowed me to turn on lights with a remote. But that stuff turned out to be terribly unreliable. If you have bought a new house make sure you do air testing so you know the air is safe in your new home. More than a year ago, we outfitted our home with Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot and have been blissfully pleased. Great product, awesome interface and we’re now dabbling in more ways to make our home smarter.  I even wrote about Amazon’s move into the Smart Home space after last year’s homebuilder convention, since it was being largely ignored there (“Digital Dawn: Amazon is creating the smart house for the rest of us”).  Fast forward one year later, and Alexa was the star of the most recent CES (Consumer Electronics Show), and a plethora of products at this year’s International Builders Show touted ties to Alexa. In fact, the popularity of Alexa is so pervasive – Amazon sold millions of units of its Echo and Echo Dot during the holiday– when Google introduced its competing product – Home – industry experts predicted that Google is simply too late to beat Amazon at this game (“Amazon’s Echo is building a coffin that’s custom-made for Google.”). The Most Dangerous Game Which brings me back to why Sauter’s shock-talk at Hacker Connect was so poignant. Most folks following the IoT have all heard about the dangers: How the October 21, 2016 DDoS attack using IoT devices and their default passwords took down Twitter, Netflix, CNN, PayPal, Spotify, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and many more. An inconvenience, yes; Life or death, no. But Sauter points out today’s Smart Homes have devices in our homes that could literally kill us. The example she gives is in a Samsung refrigerator that has a cool new feature: you can designate space […]

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