Are smart homes safe

Smart home: How secure is the smart home?

Moritz Loske

If you want to achieve more comfort with a smart home, you have to consider that without sensible protective measures, unwanted people can also gain access to personal data and devices. Security solutions help to make the pleasant digital home safe.

EnlargeAny connected device in a smart home can act as a gateway for hackers - unless you have taken security measures

Welcome home

You come home from work in a good mood, open your front door via iris recognition and are greeted with a pleasant warmth with “Welcome home”. The lights go on before entering the respective room and the mixer asks if you would like to drink a protein shake before visiting the fitness studio. The recipe for the daily dinner is displayed on the tablet next to the stove and the refrigerator has already ordered the required ingredients and had them refilled.

The e-car is already charged with the electricity it has produced itself and drives us autonomously on the fastest route to the desired destination. When you leave your own smart home, all devices that are no longer needed are automatically switched off, the blinds are lowered and the house watches over itself.

EnlargeEnjoy the comfort of your own smart home in security
© Fraunhofer IIS / Kurt Fuchs

If a supplier rings the doorbell, a message is sent to the smartphone and a video can be used to arrange a storage location for the package ordered by voice control with the supplier.

After exercising, our favorite relaxation music awaits us for a refreshing shower. The camera of the smart TV recognizes that we are at home and selects the preferred program or film. The light adapts automatically to the respective needs and times of the day, so that at the end of a successful, smart day, you can safely enter the realm of dreams.

Anything I can control in my smart home could also be done by a hacker

As beautiful and pleasant as the smart world may sound, you have to be aware that everything you can control and adjust yourself could also be done by a hacker.

He can observe us remotely and determine the best time for a break-in - and in doing so, he attacks our privacy. He can switch off the built-in alarm system. In addition, he could sell the usage behavior to a highest bidder, and personal habits are passed on unnoticed.

Experts have repeatedly demonstrated the potential dangers by uncovering glaring security deficiencies in IP cameras, which were freely available and should actually make the smart home a bit safer. Unfortunately, several devices could be found on the Internet without any protection whatsoever. Unauthorized persons could control cameras remotely and thus access images and sound. Even the passwords for the entire WLAN network as well as e-mail and Internet providers could be spied out due to defective firmware. The manufacturer has now responded with a software update.

Feel safe in your own smart home

There are ways to effectively protect yourself and your smart home, and that starts with protective measures right from the installation.

Every connected device must be seen as a possible gateway for the entire network in the house and all personal devices. The comprehensive networking of individual devices ensures that the entire network is only as robust as the weakest secured device.

Of course, the complete system also requires adequate security mechanisms such as firewall, access rights and encryption. Even when using networked facilities, regular updates should become a new unavoidable habit. You should make sure that the authenticity of the updates is always guaranteed, i.e. they should come directly from the device manufacturer so that the digital home always complies with the latest guidelines.

In principle, the factory initial configuration should never be used for any device. Standardized user names and passwords must generally be individualized. When assigning passwords, you should refrain from using simple passwords such as "password123" and not use the same insecure password everywhere. Regularly changing the password also increases security.

Anyone who receives access to the entire system from the user should be carefully selected and authorized. It is often sufficient if some users only have certain data or access to explicit devices, for example only for reading devices for heating consumption. A time limit is also useful.

To protect your personal data, you should use suitable cryptographic procedures such as encryption to protect them from unauthorized third parties or on the transmission path in the case of mobile access. Particularly sensitive and confidential information should only be accessible to the owner. This can be achieved, among other things, by storing this data locally and not using the cloud for this sensitive data.

Not only smart, but also safe

So there is a lot to consider. Why is it still worth setting up your own smart home? The increased comfort, the often improved energy saving potential and a higher quality of life are clear advantages. If you use context-based security solutions, i.e. consider beforehand which data is particularly worth protecting and which security gaps a system has, then you can protect yourself in the digital walls without a great deal of additional financial outlay.

A basic requirement when deciding on a smart home is therefore the intensive preoccupation with security issues and solutions so that the house is not only smart but also safe.