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The Risks of Using Smart Devices in Your Home

Over the past decade or so, technology has been creeping further and further into our everyday lives with us now being able to control our lights, heating, TVs and even children’s toys from anywhere in the world with our mobile devices. Some of these devices can even interact with each other.

The ease of everyday tasks that these devices offer is a clear benefit to many, however, the problem with technology is that the easier it is made to use, generally, the less secure it becomes.


Smart TVs

According to Statista, 42% of UK households contain a smart TV. Smart TVs are televisions integrated with the internet meaning you can stream online videos, look at photos, log in to social media and use apps such as Netflix and YouTube without having to switch devices.

Some televisions also have webcams and the ability to store your usage and history data in order to advertise products and programmes you might like.


The Risks of Using a Smart TV

Being connected to you home Wi-Fi means that your smart TV could be accessed, or hacked into without your knowledge or permission, which could lead to:

  • Your viewing, browsing and other usage history being seen and used for targeted advertising messages, or other illegal purposes.

  • Your smart TV’s microphone and webcam (if applicable) being hacked to eavesdrop on yours and your family’s conversations, or to see what possessions you have.

  • Access to information, photos or any other data on storage devices (such as memory cards) which are connected to your TV.

  • Your smart TV becoming part of a ‘botnet’ which is a network of private devices infected with malicious software and controlled as a group by a scammer without the owners’ knowledge. Botnets are commonly created and used to hack into corporate or government websites.


How to Protect your Privacy

  • Some connected devices will come with a pre-set password. You should change this to something unique as soon as possible as these factory set passwords are often easy to guess and the same as other devices from the same company. The password should contain a mixture of number and letters and should not be anything related to yourself or a family member. You should also make sure the passwords for every device you own are different.

  • When you aren’t using the TV, make sure the webcam and microphone are all switched off, and covered with tape for extra protection.

  • Make sure all the latest security features are installed and all of your smart devices are connected to a secure wifi network.  


Voice-Controlled Home Assistants

The popularity of smart speakers, such as the Google Home and Amazon Echo, has grown substantially over the past couple of years. These voice-controlled home assistants allow you to do anything from playing music and listening to the latest news, to finding out about the weather and your upcoming flight information, to controlling your Smart TV and sending information from other devices directly to your phone.

The major drawback to using smart home assistants is that they are always collecting and storing data about you, especially when you ask questions about your local area, or set a reminder for someone’s birthday. All of this information is kept so the device can assist you better in the future, but that means it is out there on the internet, vulnerable to being hacked. 


How to Protect your Privacy

  • Whenever you aren’t specifically using the device, make sure you turn off the microphone. When the microphone is left on, the device will constantly be listening out for the activation word which means it is listening to everything that everyone is saying.

    Have you ever wondered how you are seeing adverts for a handbag on Facebook after talking about it with your friend in the living room? Unfortunately it is not a coincidence and marketers are using the data stored to better personalise how they market to you. This means that everything else you say is also being stored – which could be bank details or information about your personal data.

  • Like with Smart TV accounts, make sure you change the factory-set password as soon as possible as these are often easy to guess and are the same for many devices made by the same manufacturer. Make sure this password is strong by mixing letters, numbers and special characters and make sure it is nothing personal about you.


Should We be Concerned Now?

As of yet, there seems to be no conclusive data on any major hackings or illegal processes taking place surrounding smart home devices. However, this is a concern of the future with more and more devices being created and more people adopting them into their homes. 

The advice we would give at the moment is to take every precaution possible, as with everything you do on and off line.


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