We love our kids, and we want the best for them. In today’s connected world, the role of a parent includes deciding how much to let technology impact our kids’ lives. Sometimes that role involves the choice to either disconnect more so our little ones can develop without too much tech influence, or to take advantage of the benefits that smart devices offer. Web-connected technology built specifically for families makes parenting simpler in too many ways to count, but not all are created equal. To clear up the good and the bad, we rounded up the best family-centric smart home devices, their vulnerability, and how to keep them secure.
Virtual Assistant: Whether you’re already devoted to your Amazon Echo or have been eyeing the Google Home, virtual assistants have become a pseudo family member in many homes. Among an extensive list of capabilities that continues to grow, these hands-free devices can crawl the web for random info, read audiobooks to kids before bed, and act as the ultimate kitchen helper by searching for recipes and setting timers (no more screen smudges!). As these devices are connected to your online accounts, web-connected household devices, and more, it’s important to make sure these devices stay secure.
The Hack: Should your Alexa or Home become compromised, the hacker may be able to gain control over a large portion of your sensitive personal information. Additionally, the “always on” feature listens to and records what you say around the device once activated, which affects your personal privacy in the long-run.
Security Systems: As a parent, protecting our family from whatever goes “bump” in the night is priority number one. We want to know that our house is secure and that our family is safe from intrusions, including virtual ones. The iSmart Home Security System is just one of the many security systems that provides intelligent, connected protection for your home’s devices, including cameras, front door locks, and alarm systems.
The Hack: If hackers gain access to your security system, they can use ransomware to lock or unlock your doors, set off your alarms, or spy through your cameras.
Thermostats: In 2012, Nest began selling smart thermostats, and over the past five years, the company has expanded their repertoire to include smoke detectors and security cameras. However, the smart thermostat remains their most popular product, with its ability to learn your family’s temperature preferences and schedule patterns, and adjust accordingly. Nest has remained the household name in smart thermostats, but the ecobee is another system with a touch-enabled display and remote-sensor capabilities.
The Hack: “White hat” hackers recently made the first case for a smart thermostat ransomware hack that turns the heat all the way up in your home until you pay a fine.
Lighting Systems: Like smart thermostats, connected lighting systems like the Phillips Hue bulbs are an awesome way to keep an environmentally friendly home. You can keep your lights on a timer to be sure that they shut off when you aren’t home, which conserves both energy and the dough in your wallet. The bulbs connect to several other smart home devices, which means that you can control them on the go from your Amazon Echo or Google Home.
The Hack: A bug in smart bulbs can brick your bulbs, make them flicker or turn on whenever the hacker sets them to, or create a virus that spreads through nearby bulbs.
With all the devices connecting your home to the internet, it’s important to know you are protected from cybercriminals attempting to score your personal data. To prevent an attack, secure your home Wi-Fi by creating a safe password and change the default password on all of your IoT devices. Solutions such as McAfee Secure Home Platform––available on the Arris Surfboard Gateway and Humax routers in retailers soon––can secure devices through your internet router to make sure every internet-connected device is safe. Keep an eye out this year for gateways that have the Secure Home Platform built in.
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