Are smart homes dangerous? Well I guess it all depends on which way you look at it.
What if I asked you: “is driving a car dangerous?”
How would you respond?
If you don’t consider being sat in a heavy metal object travelling at 80 miles per hour as risk free then I guess you can think of a smart home as being perfectly fine.
But if you’re planning on building your very own home automation system then there are some safety concerns that you will need to think about and plan for.
Don’t be “that guy/girl” who gets caught off guard because you overlooked critical safety precautions.
As we become more reliant on the technology to run our homes we will start taking for granted that everything will be smooth sailing.
Here are some possibilities that will need to be carefully addressed to mitigate as much risk as possible:
1. Malfunctioning Equipment & “Dumb” Smart Technology
Electronic sensors go bad sometimes.
It’s a fact of life.
If this happens to us and an automation system isn’t receiving accurate readings from sensors then this could cause major problems.
Imagine an automated kettle boiling water..
If a liquid level sensor fails to do it’s job then the system may “think” water exists when in actual fact the kettle is empty.
Or how about a failed temperature sensor in the kettle?
In these two scenarios, if the desired temperature is never reached then the kettle may continue to boil indefinitely!
Having multiple sensors could help to mitigate these kinds of problems.
This coupled with a notification function to alert you, the user that there’s a fault in the electronics.
Of course there could be a problem in the notification systems to!
Regularly performing system checks to help find these problems early may be a good idea to implement in a home automation system.
"Dumb" Smart Tech
Cheap products are manufactured every day and many of these may not have had sufficient testing before leaving the factory.
Or perhaps manufacturers haven’t implemented enough safety precautions in their products.
This happens more often than you may think.
The best thing to do with new products is to stand back and let other do the real-world testing and keep a close eye on product reviews.
2. Smart Home Electromagnetic Radiation Dangers
If faulty equipment isn’t enough to place a smart home in danger then how about this?!
If you’re perfectly fine with the fact that your home is emitting electromagnetic radiation for 24 hours every day then this problem may not concern you much.
But as we stream YouTube and Netflix through wireless broadband we are exposed to this radiation on a regular basis.
This along with our mobile phone which never leaves our side for a fraction of a second…
Most (if not, all) ‘Internet of Things’ and Home Automation devices will be using wireless communication similar to Wifi and Bluetooth.
vesttech.com has a great article which covers health risks of continuous wireless radiation exposure from electronics devices.
3. Smart Home Surveillance Dangers
Data & Personal Security
Generating and collecting all of your smart home data will need to be stored somewhere safe.
The problem here is that you will need to guard this personally identifying information from pretty much everyone.
The main threat with home surveillance such as CCTV is when it’s connected to the internet.
Viewing our cameras from another location over the internet may be a luxury feature that we can’t live without but it opens up your virtual doors to the world.
Or what about all of those microphones that you have installed in every room of your home?
Talk about big brother.. he could very well be watching and listening to you along with thousands of other people.
To read more about how hackers can gain access to your IoT systems, I have a separate post on this subject here: Common IoT attacks & threats on security & privacy.
Think Like An Attacker
Imagine you were a hacker for a moment and you had gained access to your smart home.
What would you discover?
When we configure devices we are sometimes asked to give the device a name so it becomes easily identifiable to us on a network.
My advice here is to not name devices something that’s easily identifiable to anyone.
For example, don’t call the “internet of things” toaster the “IoT toaster”.
This helps prevent an attacker from building up a mental picture of what kind of home automation systems we have.
After hackers/crackers has gained access to your data they could then take this further by attempting a break-in. Which brings me on to my next point of physical home security.
4. Physical Home Security In A Smart Home
We all know what a hacker is. We all know what a burglar is. At least I hope so. But what about hacker-burglars?
Keeping computer software updated is important to keep yourself protected from software vulnerabilities.
The same is true for software in home automation.
Except in this instance if a hacker exploits a software vulnerability in your home automation security system then this could give him/her physical access to your property.
A hack could be performed remotely where an attacker could create a new RFID tag by studying your home system for example.
Then all he/she needs to do is simply turn up at your doorstep and let themselves in.
If a hacker has access to your security system then the chances of them having access to your entire home automation system is high.
It wouldn’t be too hard for them to find the average time you leave to go to work everyday and when no one is home.
Other data that could be used against you could include:
- Knowing if you have a guard dog
- Passwords to access particular areas
- Where your cameras are pointing to and could possibly disable them or perform a recording playback attack
- Disable any alert system
- Track your mobile phone GPS location
- Making an educated guess as to whether you are home by monitoring electricity usage
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5. Power Outages Could Be Dangerous In A Smart Home
Next up on this list is power outages..
And they happen to us all from time-to-time.
It doesn’t need to be something as big as a natural disaster but having a little bad whether can cause a power outage.
Sometimes we loose power because of some other reason but either way we need to be prepared for this eventuality.
Backup power supplies such as emergency generators and solar powered battery storage can keep our home systems alive for short periods of time before we regain mains power again.
But let’s take a look at what could possibly go wrong if a smart home looses it’s power source:
- All door locks may stop working. This could be in a fully locked or fully unlocked position
- Water pipes in heating systems could freeze and burst in cold climates
- Notification systems may stop working
What do you think.. are smart homes dangerous?
By thinking about all of the possible scenarios that could go wrong in a smart home we can then take necessary steps to mitigate risks.
Not every eventuality can be prepared for and this is something that you, the home occupier will have to carefully consider if you’re thinking about creating a smart home.
Do these risks outweigh the benefits of home automation?
I’ll leave this for you to decide.