Inside a Modern-Day Smart Home

Ever wonder how the Internet of Things (IoT) first began? Often regarded as the first IoT device, John Romkey created a toaster that could be turned on and off over the internet for the October ’89 INTEROP conference. Then in 2000, LG announced its first internet refrigerator plans. So on and so forth IoT grew and grew, populating homes everywhere. Soon enough, we got the smart home. Though the name itself has become household, many people may not fully understand the ins and outs of a smart home. And beyond that, many don’t know the security implications tied to it. Let’s take a look.

Popularity via Convenience

According to Gartner, 20.8 billion connected devices are predicted to exist in consumer homes by 2020. So why have these devices and the smart homes they fill boomed so drastically in popularity in the past few years? One word: convenience.

If we use enough of them, these devices automate our daily existence. They turn our lights on for us, flip music on at the sound of our voice, even change the temperature in our house. And they’ve become all too easy to accumulate since the technology has started to become more affordable. A few of the key and common smart devices that can be found in a modern smart home include smart refrigerators, smart lights, smart speakers, smart TVs. Beyond that, more family-oriented devices are becoming smart — including baby cams, thermometers, and children’s toys.

As we look ahead, it’s been predicted that the type of devices that are “smart” will grow to become more diverse, driving wider adoption. And that will cause more businesses to jump on the IoT train — builders, developers and anyone in the world of residential life are going to link up with smart tech.

The Digital (and Physical) Impact of IoT

But the continuous growth of these devices, now and in the future, is something we all have to smart about. These IoT devices are convenient, but their build makes them a convenient target for cybercriminals. This is because many IoT devices aren’t built with security in mind, and users often leave default settings on, which makes it easy for hackers to breach them. Just take the McAfee ATR team’s recent discovery about the Wemo Insight Smart Plug for example – the device was found to contain a crucial vulnerability that could allow hackers to manipulate it. Not to mention, digital assistants are susceptible to something called a ‘Dolphin Attack,’ which can be leveraged by cybercriminals to potentially breach a user.

And since all these IoT devices must connect to Wi-Fi, they can expose an entire network to threats. In fact, according to a recent McAfee survey, the biggest worry among recent respondents about having their wireless home network hacked is that cybercriminals could steal personal information and make them a victim of identity theft (63%).

There are physical repercussions to a vulnerable IoT device as well. Once they’ve hacked a connected device, cybercriminals can also manipulate the device itself and can flip the lights off, listen in on your smart baby monitor, the list goes on.

Connecting With Care

The good news is there are a few things we can all do to prevent IoT attacks and still enjoy our smart homes. First things first, we must all buy IoT devices with security in mind. Just by doing some basic research and looking up the manufacturers, we can get a feel if they have security top of mind. Most importantly, we have to change default settings and use a security solution that protects our homes at the router-level, such as McAfee Secure Home Platform.

By following these best practices, we can live our connected lives with confidence and enjoy the convenience of our high-tech homes. Both our homes and our personal security will remain smart.

To learn more about smart homes and IoT, be sure to follow us at @McAfee and @McAfee_Home.

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