Smart tech ‘top threat to home security’

Phones and smart home devices will become the biggest threat to consumers’ homes, a computer security company has warned.

With Android and Apple phones now a ubiquitous part of everyday life, and given the emergence of devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo speakers, McAfee has predicted that cybercriminals exploiting vulnerabilities in our gadgets will emerge as a major threat in 2019.

Smart heating systems, lighting, door bells, and locks could all potentially provide weak spots for criminals to exploit, it says.

“Privacy will continue to be a concern for many when it comes to digital assistants, but it’s actually your internet router and smartphone that pose the biggest threat to your data security,” Raj Samani, chief scientist and McAfee Fellow said.

“Whether it’s your boiler, doorbell or smart speaker, many people already connect their smartphone to at least one other gadget in the home. By infecting smartphones, which can already monitor and control home devices, cybercriminals will look to gain control of our wider home environments.

“When you bring connected devices into the home, you need to make sure you enjoy using it in a safe and risk-free way,” he said.

There are simple remedies that can help protect connected smart home — or so-called ‘Internet of things’ — devices.

McAfee suggests keeping these devices on a separate network than the one used for the smartphones, tablets, and computers that would contain private information.

This can be done by checking the home router’s manual for ways to establish a second “guest” network, or by buying a new router with built-in security that protects all the devices on the network.

Users of Smart home devices are also advised to check out the passwords on these gadgets, and change them from the default code issued with the product.

McAfee says hackers know these default passwords and will use them to break into devices and gain access to data.

Mr Samani said there are ways to safeguard devices.

“People can do a number of things to easily protect their smartphones, and therefore their smart homes, from malware,” he said.

“There’s mobile security that warns you about risky apps before you download or use them and it often comes down to simple things such as being savvy with your passwords. If you have the right security in place, there’s no reason to be scared of smartphones or smart homes.”

Analysts Canalys said smart speakers are the world’s fastest-growing consumer technology segment, recording a year-on-year growth of over 200% in the first quarter of this year.

Amazon said that last Monday was its biggest ‘Cyber Monday’ in history — and that its Echo Dot smart speaker was the “number one selling product on Amazon globally”.

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