Security in the times of smart homes: A primer

By Pulak Satish Kumar

Imagine every appliance in your home connected and operable using your home’s WiFi network, video calling systems integrated with your Smart TV and robo-vacuum cleaners doing all the household chores for you as you sit back and bask in the miracle that is technology.

These are some of the incredible features of ‘smart homes’ that are becoming increasingly popular in the country. Within a smart home, almost all devices, security systems, entertainment systems, and communication systems are interconnected through IoT, and can be operated simply using one’s smartphone.

In India, smart homes are gaining an increased traction, especially thanks to dual-income households that have disposable income to spend on their lifestyle. In fact, the uptake of smart home devices in India has been increasing by 15-18% in Tier-1 cities annually. Several urban homes have transformed themselves into smart homes and the penetration of these technologies is rapidly increasing.

The only drawback of this life-altering technology, is that when things go cyber, there is always room for cyber crime. The connected home ecosystem is especially vulnerable to jeopardy as almost all its components operate while online. According to a report compiled by cyber security research center McAfee Labs, there will be an increase in attacks on IoT-connected devices in 2018, and cases of malware and ransomware will target Smart devices including drones and smart homes.

The most vulnerable aspect of smart homes is the human factor. As the smart home concept is novel, users are not well-versed with the risks that connected devices pose. They are unaware of the repercussions of security breaches in Smart Home s. Hacking, ransomware attacks, privacy breaches through webcams, are all common security breaches that can occur within homes. While it is the responsibility of service providers and manufacturers to take necessary network and hardware security decisions, there are also precautions that users can take to avoid major security breaches at home.

Secure WiFi connectivity and Smart devices

Your WiFi connection is the glue that holds your entire smart home together. Every connected device, appliance and tool leads back to the WiFi router. If your router was to be hacked into, the entire smart home system would be at risk. Before investing in a WiFi router for your smart home, check out the kind of security options that the company provides. Encryption methods are imperative to securing WiFi systems. It is also a good idea to look through the privacy policy of the company to find out if your information will be shared with any third-party. Once a secure router is placed in your smart home, you can move on to choosing Smart Devices that offer reliable security systems too.

Changing defaults and updating software

The most basic method of securing your WiFi router as well as connected devices is to change the default usernames and passwords that are provided while installation. Default passwords are inherently more vulnerable to cyber-attacks whereas strong and unique passwords are safer.

Further, it is important to upgrade your mobile software regularly as most Smart devices are connected to mobile networks as well. Ensure that you update your smartphone’s software as soon as you receive the notification as these updates may patch existing holes in the security infrastructure of the phone. This will further protect your home and all its inclusive devices from security breaches.

Software providers are constantly looking for ways to strengthen the security capabilities of networks and devices that make up smart homes systems. Through technologies such as Virtual Private networks, connected homes will become more secure and protected against external threats. These developments that make smart homes safer to live in will be able to boost the uptake of these technologically advanced homes, making India a truly connected country sooner than we imagined.

Pulak Satish Kumar is the COO of Puresight Systems, a home robotics appliance provider in India. 


Internet of ThingsSmart homesSmartphoneWiFi