Securing the smart home
Smart home technologies offer convenience, efficiency and control, but they are also major targets for cyber criminals. Tighter security is needed to better protect people, their products and their privacy.
The smart home market is growing dramatically, as more and more people use remotely controlled systems to manage everything from their heating and lighting to their door locks and their music players. But this presents its own security concerns for manufacturers and their customers.
The smart home market will be worth an astonishing $90 billion this year and close to twice that by 2022, according to Strategy Analytics, as device popularity soars and availability expands on a global scale. Indeed, the number of smart homes around the world will grow fivefold, from 90 million to some 463 million by 2021, Ovum’s projections estimate.
Types of device
For now at least, a few specific types of device dominate growth in the market. Personal assistants are growing dramatically in popularity and now offer additional capabilities from smartphone assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana. Leading the way here is Amazon Echo, the voice activated speaker that connects to Alexa, a versatile virtual helper able to control smart home devices and heating, play music, order goods online and predict the weather.
Meanwhile, another notable trend is the growth of smart metering, which gives people greater control over their home energy consumption and the opportunity to save considerable sums of money on gas and electricity. By 2020, every household across the UK will be offered the option of having a smart meter installed by their energy supplier (according to the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Smart Meters report.
Other popular smart home appliances include internet connected washing machines, smart and ambient lighting, vacuum cleaners and refrigerators. Smart washing machines from the likes of Miele, Hoover and Samsung can be controlled via smartphone, with apps informing users of wash progress and machine maintenance status. In the near future washing machines ordering and paying automatically detergent before it is used up.
Smart home technology is increasingly used to secure residential properties. Nest, now owned by Google's parent company Alphabet Inc., already has a suite of smart security cameras available. But there are plenty of competitors coming to market with their own intruder detection devices, app-controlled door locks and wireless alarm systems.
But in spite of these technological leaps for improved control and convenience, it is not all good news for manufacturers and home owners. There are also some very serious security risks to consider, and device makers must secure their users.
Most notably, there is now an increasing risk of personal usage data being accessed by malicious parties. Another concern is that hackers might be able to intrude virtually into an individual household, seize control of connected devices and do real damage such as unlocking doors or turning off lights and electrical systems or turning on the oven. Should a whole quater be targeted, such an attack can trigger power breakdowns and have severe consequences.
The challenge when it comes to smart homes is that so many devices need to integrate, and the resulting interfaces quickly become tempting targets for cyber criminals. This threat is very real and Intel’s recent ‘’Internet of Things and the Smart Home” survey suggests that the fact is not lost on users of smart home technologies - two-thirds of whom indicate that they are concerned about their in-home systems and devices being hacked.
In such a context, device and goods makers need to work with a security partner to help them protect their customers. G+D, based in Germany, is one such firm and has worked with numerous smart home technology manufacturers.
“Our aim is to create confidence through enhanced security in the ever-expanding Internet of Things,” explains Michael Bongartz, account director for the IoT at G+D mobile security. “We are focused firmly on rising to the challenge of protecting people and their privacy, as their homes become smarter and increasingly connected.”
G+D is working with numerous smart appliance makers, providing embedded device, identity, security and data management for connected goods, as well as interfaces with other devices.