Are You Safe From Spying When You Have Robots in Your Home?

by Ben SanfordSeptember 6, 2017

How to Make Your Home Automation More Secure

In a recent article published by CNet.com, it was revealed that iRobot, the company behind the popular Roomba robo-vacuum machine, is planning to use their Roomba devices to map users’ homes. The company states that the collected data will be shared with manufacturers of other smart home devices so they can design their products to be of the utmost use to homeowners.

IRobot’s CEO, Colin Angle, told Reuters that Roombas will only record and share the data they collect after a user approves it. In households where the users do not approve it, the Roombas will perform their regular cleaning duties without recording data.

With data being collected and shared with other manufacturers of smart home devices, it brings to mind the question of how secure today’s homes are from spying when so many devices are connected to the Internet.
home automation security

How Secure Are Smart Home Devices and In-Home Robots?

In October 2016, Dyn, the Internet gatekeeper for major sites like Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, and many others, was flooded by bandwidth from a large number of unsecured devices. The result was a massive Internet outage.

It was later discovered that one of the biggest culprits for this outage were smart home devices, especially those that still retained the manufacturer’s default passwords. Because so many users fail to change the passwords on their smart home devices, they are unfortunately incredibly easy for hackers to break into. And, once a hacker gets in, they can install malware that gives them complete control over the devices.

It is important to note that this type of infiltration is most commonly seen on devices and robots that allow users to operate them using the manufacturer’s hard-coded passwords and on third-party devices that don’t offer the robust security against hackers.
home automation security smart phone

How to Improve the Security of Your Smart Home

The smart home industry is extremely competitive and as a result, manufacturers of third-party equipment often rush their devices to the market. These devices will almost always feature weak password policies and unrestricted access to their debugging interfaces.

Both of these missteps make it much easier for the devices to be hacked into. So, what can you do to strengthen the security of your smart home? Here are five things you need to do.

Buy Brand Name Equipment: Home automation is one area where trying to save money can put you at risk. As stated earlier, third-party manufacturers focus on getting their equipment out to the masses. Security is far down on their lists of concerns whereas the brand names make stronger security a top focus.

You want to use a brand that has been around for a while; one that you have heard of before and one that has a reputation for quality products. Names like Nest, Hive, and SmartThings are among the best in this field.

Secure Your Router: Every device in your home that connects to the Internet does so through your home’s router. So, the router is your first line of defense. You should only use a router that has a good reputation for security.

You also want to make sure the default password can be changed to something more complex and secure. Lastly, make sure the router is updated to its most current firmware.

Keep Your Devices in Places Where Un-Trusted People Can’t Access Them: Any time an individual that you do not personally know and trust enters your home, you could be at risk for your devices being hacked. This is most common in homes that feature devices with USB updating mechanisms.

All someone has to do is insert a USB flash drive and upload the code that will allow them easy access to it. So, if your devices feature USM update mechanisms, you will want to keep them away from the high traffic areas in your home.

home automation security update devices

Update Your Devices Regularly: Any time your device’s manufacturer releases an update, apply it to your device as soon as you can. Most updates feature patches for security issues and other potential problems.

Consider Using a Cloud Home Automation Service: If you’re not tech savvy or you want to have a hands-off relationship with your smart home devices, then you may want to use a cloud service that specializes in the home automation field.

These services will cost money and they aren’t capable of protecting your devices 100% against intrusion, but they can do a better job of securing devices than most homeowners are able to do.

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About The Author
Ben Sanford
Ben is a real estate agent and freelance writer. He's lived on the east coast his entire life and is just as "at home" on a snowboard as he is in the office. When not writing about local real estate markets and researching hot new tips for homeowners, he can be found working on his home renovation projects with help from his wife Melissa and their kids, Josh and Cheyenne.

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