It’s easy to blame manufacturers when it comes to spotty protection of IoT gadgets, but a 2016 research paper by BitDefender offers several other perspectives to show why security in smart homes isn’t as simple as protecting yourself online. There’s a grey area around the design of privacy – what constitutes as acceptable privacy principles in every phase of the device? The research doesn’t provide a clear answer, but it’s clear to us that every IoT product requires certain privileges for it to exercise its full functionality. The downside is the need for us to be surveyed and tracked in order for these devices to serve us effectively.
What can you do? Before you go out, buy or add another smart device into your home network, take a moment to think about these few pointers.
1. Does it really need to be smart?
A smart washing machine may seem cool, but you’d typically have to load and unload the appliance by hand. Perhaps a day may come that there’s a real necessity for certain appliances to be smart, but owning one without any regard to practicality can present a security or privacy gap within your connected home network.
2. Disable inactive IoT devices and features.
Even after establishing your smart needs, not every appliance requires a constant online presence. Similar to how you turn off the power for electronics that aren’t in use, you should make the habit of turning off an appliance’s smart features or connectivity if you’re not actively using them.
3. Avoid buying second-hand or from unknown sources.
This isn’t an attempt to turn the wheels of capitalism, but the IoT ecosystem is riddled with many varying standards. There is little regulation or control of protocols, plus the ease of global online shopping means that there’s no guarantee that your bargain smart appliance wasn’t tampered with, or contains vulnerabilities due to old and/or buggy software. Well-known brands often react faster and release fixes to patch security vulnerabilities found in their products.