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Within the past decade, the amount of smart devices we use has grown exponentially. From doorbells to dumbbells, there’s barely a product on the market that hasn’t tried to find some way to get “smarter.” But how do you protect yourself against hackable smart home devices?
Smart devices connect to the internet via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and come with the tacit promise to make our lives easier or more convenient in some manner. With the advent of smart speakers, their integrated assistants and whole-home hubs, our homes can now be connected through every room, whether that’s the garage, kitchen, bedroom or basement.
Creating a smart home can be an awesome feat, but like any tech, there are some hazards ahead. Having so much of our daily lives connected to the internet can put cracks in the foundation of a home’s inherent privacy.
Anything connected to the internet can potentially be hacked, including your smart TV, home hub and even your Wi-Fi router. But you don’t need to fear the future. Instead, be aware of the dangers so you can create the best defense. Just as it’s wise to lock your car doors at night, you can securely indulge in all things “smart” by putting up a few quick safeguards.
Smart home room by room
Here’s an exhaustive list of all the hackable smart home devices that might be found in your abode. Please note that with new devices being imagined every day, this list is bound to expand over time.
We’ve divided this catalog by the rooms that contain the most likely-to-be-hackable smart home devices vs. rooms that contain smart devices that are less likely to be hacked. For example, while a security camera might be an enticing challenge for a criminal to crack, it’s unlikely anyone would want to hack your smart scale or smart water-level monitor.
Most hackable smart home devices in the most vulnerable rooms
The most susceptible rooms in your home are ones that contain smart devices that control other smart gadgets. For example, if your smart speaker can deactivate your alarm system or purchase items online, that would be an attractive entry point for a potential hacker. Here are the top seven rooms to scrub for any security loopholes and how to patch them.
1. Foyer or front entry
- Smart doorbell, such as the Ring Video Doorbell 2, Google Nest Hello or eufy Video Doorbell
- Wi-Fi security system, such as ADT, SimpliSafe or Vivint
- Smart lock, such as the Google Nest x Yale Lock or August Smart Lock Pro
Though the Ring Doorbell was once promoted by Wirecutter as “the best doorbell camera for 2019,” compromised login credentials soon caused the popular tech site to suspend their recommendation. Our take? Make a strong, unique password and set up two-factor authentication for any smart doorbell devices.
Two-factor authentication is when your initial login prompts a second level of verification, such as a numerical code or fingerprint.
Are you concerned about hackers taking control of your video feed to spy on you? Mitigate your risks by regularly updating your camera’s firmware. Large security companies, such as ADT, regularly release updates to known bugs and these fixes can go a long way in keeping you safe. But they can’t protect you if you don’t click Install now.
As for smart locks, make sure to buy them from a trusted source that uses high levels of encryption. If you expect any visitors when you are not home, whether that’s your kids’ friends or your trusted pet sitter, make sure to give them a temporary “friend code”’ for your smart lock that you can easily reset later.
2. Home office
- Computer or laptop
- Modem and router
- Smart printer, including all-in-one copiers and scanners
Your home office is one of the most obvious vulnerabilities in a Wi-Fi connected home. The good news? Since the office is an evident area of interest, most people are on high alert around these devices. Plus, many companies incorporate extra security measures into devices such as computers and gateways.
But don’t let state-of-the-art devices lull you into a false sense of security. You still need to have extra layers of security on your router, such as a strong password and a separate guest Wi-Fi login. And make sure you know how to avoid phishing scams so that you don’t accidentally invite an intruder in.
3. Living room or den
- Smart TV
- Smart lights
- Smart speaker, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home
- Smart thermostat or HVAC control, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Gen or the ecobee SmartThermostat
- Smart plugs, such as the Gosund Mini Wifi Outlet
- Smart vacuum, such as the iRobot Roomba or the eufy RoboVac
- Streaming devices, such as Apple TV, Roku Streaming Stick, Amazon Fire TV Stick, or Google Chromecast
In your living room, you need to be on high alert particularly around your smart speaker, smart thermostat and streaming devices. By its very nature, your smart speaker is at some level, always listening. Manage your privacy settings to inhibit the speaker’s capabilities and turn the speaker off when you are away.
If you’ve ever thought about jailbreaking (i.e. bypassing factory software restrictions) your streaming device, think again. Illegal streaming can let in a veritable surge of unlicensed content that can be bringing a virus right along with it. A streaming device can be hacked locally as well, but the interloper would need to be on your same Wi-Fi network, which again, can be prevented by a strong password.
- Smart TV
- Smart alarm clock, such as the HeimVision Sunrise Alarm Clock
- Cellphones connected to Wi-Fi
- Smart watch, fitness tracker or sleep monitor
- E-reader or tablet, such as a Kindle Paperwhite or iPad 32 GB
- Video chat display, such as the Facebook Portal
- Smart oil diffuser
- Another smart speaker
- Another streaming device
Smart TVs can be found in multiple rooms, but the ability of someone to hack in and access its built-in camera and microphone is especially scary in the bedroom. And don’t forget about those accompanying voice-controlled remotes.
To stop someone from accessing your camera, go to your TV’s privacy settings and turn off any features that are labeled as data collection, ad tracking, personal advertising and voice or face recognition. Or just make sure to buy a smart TV without a camera.
Similarly, any video-chat display or hub with a screen, including video game consoles, can have the same vulnerability, so check the settings for those devices too. Cover your bases by checking the settings on any compatible apps you use with these devices. Carefully consider the cost-benefit analysis for any new apps you download, and modify the settings to best protect your privacy.
5. Nursery or children’s playroom
- Smart toys
- Kids’ tablets
- Smart baby monitor
- Smart soother, such as the Fisher-Price Smart Connect Deluxe Soother
Any smart device that will be used for, by or around kids needs to be extra secure. In a widely circulated news story, an unidentified man was able to verbally harass an 8-year-old girl by hacking the Ring camera in her playroom, so you may want to reconsider the placement of devices that record video and audio.
Tablets for kids were a hugely popular item in 2019 and are great to let your little one learn within defined limits. Set up your child’s tablet so that you have to approve any downloads. And keep an eye out for any suspicious activity, such as unfamiliar apps or unexpected pop-ups, as these are signs your child’s device was hacked. If you think your child’s tablet was compromised, be sure to make sure your credit information was not put in jeopardy.
- Smart oven
- Smart coffee maker
- Smart slow cooker or instant pot, such as the Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi Multi-Cooker
- Smart hub, such as the Echo Show 5
- Smart refrigerator, such as Samsung’s Family Hub Smart Refrigerator
While most kitchen devices would not draw a hacker’s interest, some prime exceptions are a smart refrigerator, Echo Show or any similar device that serves as a hub for other gadgets. Hubs are attractive hackable smart home devices because the intruder could then access your security system to weaken your home’s defenses.
That said, don’t let the innocuous smart gadgets fool you. The less advanced smart devices can be attractive to hackers for just that reason. In an experiment from McAfee Labs, a reporter was able to hack a smart coffee maker, though the only trouble he was able to stir up was to change the scheduled brew time of the machine.
7. Smart home devices in your garage
- Smart car
- Smart floodlights
- Smart garage door controller
With a smart garage door controller you can monitor your garage with video and audio, grant one-time garage access for package deliveries and know if your garage door is open or closed even when you are not home. We definitely recommend two-factor authentication for this type of device. And did we mention a strong password?
Least vulnerable devices in rooms in your smart home
These nine connected rooms are deemed less prone to potential hacking. With a few exceptions noted below, most of the smart amenities in these rooms are designed to simply make an action more convenient or keep track of data.
Keep in mind, as in the coffee maker example above, the app you use to control the device can be its weak spot, so be wary of apps where you input your address, credit card information or any other personal data.
1. Dining room
- Smart fan, such as the Morpheus III
- Smart shades, such as Somfy Smart Blinds
- Smart indoor camera such as the Google Nest Cam IQ
2. Laundry or storage room
- Smart washer and dryer
- Smart air quality monitor, such as the Awair Air Quality Monitor
- Smart air freshener, humidifier or air purifier
3. Sunroom, patio or pool
- Smart pet door
- Smart smoker, such as the Bradley Smart Smoker
- Smart water controller
- Smart water level monitor for pool
- Smart pool alarm, such as the Poolguard, which is “designed to detect intrusions similar to a 1-year-old child”
Though a smart pet door seems like a risk, most doors are aimed at smaller pets, and the dimensions would not allow for a human to enter. Of course, a larger custom-sized pet door may carry more hacking potential.
4. Guest room
- More smart lights
- Another smart TV
- Another smart speaker
If you have versions of these more vulnerable devices that live in your guest room, turn them off to avoid issues when they are not in use.
Make sure you are turning devices completely off, not putting them in hibernation or sleep mode — or simply unplug items from outlets to be sure.
5. Game room or bonus room
- Smart headphones
- Gaming systems, such as the Xbox One or PlayStation 4
- Smart projector or home theater, such as the KODAK LUMA 350
- Smart light hub, such as the Philips Hue Bridge, which can control up to 50 smart lights in your home
- Another smart TV
- Smart scale
- Smart speaker showerhead
- Smart toothbrush, such as the Oral-B 7000 SmartSeries
While there’s little probability anyone would want to hack your toothbrush or scale, the most data they would have access to is how often you brush and what’s your BMI. Again, make sure the apps that are collecting your data have privacy settings enabled, are password protected and don’t contain your personal information.
7. Home gym
- Smart dumbbells, such as the Bowflex SelectTech 560 set that can count your reps and sets and track your weight
- Smart exercise equipment, including the Peloton bike or the Tonal home gym
- Smart mirror
A smart mirror is basically a monitor or smart TV that can be camouflaged as a mirror when not in use. Like the smart refrigerator, a smart mirror can serve as a hub and includes a camera and microphone, making this a higher security risk than other devices on this list.
- Smart water leak sensor, such as the Wasserstein Wi-Fi Water Sensor
- Smart electricity monitor, such as the Sense Energy Monitor that will let you know when someone leaves the lights on … again
- Smart exhaust fan, such as the iLIVING Smart Solar Attic Exhaust Fan
- Smart mouse trap, such as the Victor Smart-Kill Wi-Fi Electronic Rat Trap, which sends an alert to your cellphone when the deed is done
Start smart when protecting your home
At the end of the day, the device you want to protect the most is your Wi-Fi router. If a hacker can breach your network, they can essentially access any connected device throughout your home.
In addition to your router, other very hackable smart home devices you need to keep an eye on are smart door locks, home hubs and security cameras. Safely manage these devices by regularly changing passwords (recommended every 90 days), setting up two-factor authentication, updating software and generally being cautious with what sites you visit and who you share any smart home secrets with.
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