Posted by: psilva | August 8, 2013

Hackable Homes


Is your house vulnerable?  Imagine coming home, disarming the alarm system, unlocking your doors and walking into a ransacked dwelling.  There are no broken windows, no forced entry, no compromised doggie doors and really no indication that an intruder had entered.  Welcome to your connected home.  I stop short of calling it a ‘smart’ home since it’s not yet intelligent enough to keep the bad guys out.  From smartphone controlled front door locks to electrical outlets to security cameras to ovens, refrigerators and coffee machines, internet connected household objects are making their way into our homes.  Our TVs, DVDs and DVRs are already.  And anything connected to the internet, as we all know, is a potential target to be compromised.

Researchers have shown how easy it is to infect automobiles and it is only a matter of time before crooks and a little bit of code will be able to watch you leave your driveway, disable your alarms, unlock your door, steal your valuables and get out with minimal trace.  Those CSI/NCIS/Criminal Minds/L&O crime dramas will need to come up with some new ideas on how to solve the mystery during the trace-evidence musical montages.  The hard-nosed old timer is baffled by the fact that there is nothing to indicate a break-in except for missing items.  Is the victim lying for insurance fraud?  Could it have been a family member?  Or simply a raccoon?  A real who-done-it!  Until, of course, the geeky lab technician emerges from their lair with a laptop showing how the hacker remotely controlled the entire event.  ‘Look Boss, zeros and ones!

Many of these remotely controlled home devices use a wireless communications protocol called Z-Wave.  It’s a low power radio wave that allows home devices to communicate with each other and be controlled remotely over the internet.  Last year, 1.5 million home automation products were sold in the US and that is expected to grow to 8 million in less than 5 years.  An estimated 5 million Z-Wave devices will be shipped this year. 

Like any communications protocol, riff-raff will attempt to break it, intercept it and maliciously control it.  And as the rush to get these connected devices in consumer’s hands and homes grows, security protections may lag.  I often convey that the hacks of the future just might involve your refrigerator.  Someone takes out all the internet enabled fridges on the West Coast and there is a food spoilage surge since no one owns legacy fridges any more….let alone Styrofoam coolers.   

ps

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