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Without proper security measures, smart homes are just begging to be targets

Grant Hatchimonji | March 18, 2014
As our world becomes increasingly connected via the Internet, it only seems logical that the interconnectivity would eventually permeate our homes. "Smart devices" like alarm systems, locks, thermostats, and more that can be controlled over the Internet are gradually gaining visibility and creating legions of "smart homes." For all the technological advancements, however, it would appear that our houses are simultaneously becoming more vulnerable.

Network segmentation was another key strategy that Irvine proposed. Keeping the devices from communicating with each other and the rest of the home network is one way to insulate them from outside threats.

"I would segment my alarm systems from my home automation systems," Irvine said as an example. "If someone gets into my AC, I don't want them to be able to turn off my alarm. Users can create segmented networks or VPNs and make these devices unable to communicate with each other. You can also have your router set up so there is a VLAN on the inside and it only allows these network segments to communicate to those other networks through a VPN."

[Your (not-so) smart home]

Heffner was on the same page, suggesting measures that ranged from the simple to the slightly more technical. For one, he said, users should refrain from making their smart devices openly accessible by any remote users. "The device usually has an option to set specific devices or IP addresses that can access it remotely," he said.

As for mobile devices that are linked to smart devices via some sort of mobile app, Heffner said that it falls on the software developers to keep them up to snuff. The user's responsibility lies in being aware of what exactly they're installing on their phones or tablets.

"Most [mobile apps] will auto update themselves when they're available," he said. "But whether you're using a mobile device or not, be careful of what programs you install. Android users should be especially careful. It will go a long way towards keeping people off your network."


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