Smart-home technology such as automated lights, appliances and thermostats can make life more convenient, and make a home seem more attractive to buyers. But consumers might be alarmed by the porous protection they could get from certain smart-home security devices.
Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Michigan tested a leading home automation system and found multiple design flaws that enabled them to conduct remote break-ins of homes.
The system being evaluated was Samsung’s SmartThings – a popular platform for smart-home technology that boasts the largest number of apps and supports a wide range of devices, including door locks, fire alarms and motion sensors.
The researchers discovered more than 55% of SmartThings apps were “over-privileged,” meaning hackers could easily gain full access to connected devices. They seized control of door lock codes, disabled vacation modes, and even induced a fake fire alarm.
“Most of these devices are still in the early stages of development, and until recently, many manufactures were focused more on marketing the conveniences to the consumer than on developing essential security protocols,” said Ric Johnson, president of Right at Home Technologies, Ltd., in northwest Ohio.
Johnson – who’s done a considerable amount of testing of his own to determine various product vulnerabilities – thinks these third-party developers are recognizing a need to boost security or else risk going out of business. He predicts there will be a noticeable increase in the security measures and review process of smart-home products within the next six to 12 months.
Though SmartThings customers have not yet reported any serious issues related to app vulnerability, the company recently “implemented a number of updates” to improve app security.
But now more than ever, Johnson is urging prospective clients to take their time and do their homework before investing in smart-home technology. Especially when it comes to security, he tries to help his clients evaluate their real goals, and urges them not to be swayed by any unverified claims of product quality.
Before installing any product, builders and contractors should thoroughly assess the products they (or their clients) are considering to help limit potential liabilities.
In support of this important step, NAHB created an assessment guide to help builders evaluate specifications of materials and determine their level of confidence in the product manufacturer(s).