Just How Safe Is Your Home Security System?

June 15, 2016

9:00 pm

Keeping up with the greatest home security systems is proving tough. From do-it-yourself systems to those that need a pro to install, it is a competitive field. Add constant innovation and a person won’t know which system is suitable for their requirements.

Home security systems reviews are available, but the best thing is to spend time doing your own research. Simply put, spend the time to find a system that matches your lifestyle and provide the best defense against intruders, fire, flood and other dangers.

Smart home security systems have been demonstrated to be vulnerable to outside attack. Not just vulnerable, but highly susceptible to hacking. All it takes is for a hacker to get the front door’s PIN code.

If you think that getting the 4-digit “security” code is difficult, you’ve never been around an 8-year old who wanted to watch the adult channel on cable.

One team of scientists and developers at the University of Michigan was equipped to hack into prominent smart home security systems — Samsung’s SmartThings — just using malware.

SmartThings is one of the top-selling platforms for homeowners. The new study looking into the system’s security has not found anything promising.

“At least today there are important design failings from a safety aspect,” said Atul Prakash, professor of computer sciences at the University of Michigan. “I would say it is alright as a hobby right now, but I wouldn’t use it where I needed real security.”

The researchers found that vulnerabilities were introduced into the smart home system when hard wired systems were reworked. Although SmartThings is growing in popularity, its Android app lets a person manage their connected home devices remotely; and it has been downloaded over 100,000 times.

Earlence Fernandes, a doctoral scholar who directed the research, said, “One way to imagine it; if you give control of the equipment in your house to somebody you don’t trust, think about the serious things that could be done with that power.”

So far, over 40 percent of the almost 500 apps examined were given capabilities the developers did not specify in their code. These results all have implications for all smart home systems.

The bottom line is that it is not easy to secure the systems. With multiple software layers, there will always be vulnerabilities, making corrections difficult.

In a statement, SmartThings say they are working to explore “long-term” automated, defensive abilities to address the identified weaknesses.

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Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist.

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