You leave the office after a long day of work, and during the return journey, you take out your mobile phone and with a simple gesture you send a command to your kitchen robot so it begins to bake the dinner, set the temperature of the thermostat to 24ºC and check that your teenager has arrived an hour ago and he is in his room. In addition, you have a notification that the washing machine program is finished, so you’ll have to hang out the washing when you get home (It’s a pity that smart homes are not as good as we’d like them to be).
As you enter through the door of your house, the lights go on and off while you go down the hall to the kitchen, where the fridge warns you that you have to buy milk soon and, if you wish so, it can make the order. At this moment, your partner enters with your little daughter who asks you to play on the TV those cartoons she likes, so you ask your virtual assistant to turn on the television and set up the cartoon channel.
After dinner, with children at bed, the lights in the room dim and change to a warmer tone, while you tell the virtual assistant to turn off the television and play some music matching your mood in this moment.
These scenes, that could seem futuristic, can be given nowadays in any smart home that has the necessary elements. Many large companies such as Apple (HomeKit), Samsung (SmartThings), Philips (Hue), Amazon (Alexa) or Google (Assistant) have opted to create the necessary devices to turn our houses into places where technology is the basis to make our daily tasks easier.
But, like every technology, it has its problems, and one of the most important is security. Security issues occur almost daily, and may well affect your computer (Virus, malware, ransomware, etc.), or your bank (credit card thefts, credentials, etc.), and even your country (web defacing, DoS attacks, etc). Your smart home is not an exception. It is exposed to similar attacks and hacks. Just imagine, for example, this: a criminal could learn from your devices and know when there is no one in your house, raise the heating or switch on the air conditioning to increase your energy costs. Or even worst: the criminal would just have to turn off the alarm using one of the possible vulnerable devices and break into your house (maybe hacking your smart lock).
It’s not just a matter of security. It is also necessary to take privacy into account (Take the Facebook and Alexa cases as examples). As we know, almost all our habits (the channels we see, the music we listen, the food we buy, etc.) are stored and used to “improve” the user experience. Our virtual assistant, for example, could not offer us the music we like if we have not shared that information with the company behind it.
Therefore, both security and privacy should be in the Top5 of important things for both manufacturers and consumers of technologies for smart homes. For manufacturers, because they must protect their devices and keep them updated so security threats can’t affect them, in addition to being responsible for the data we give them voluntarily to offer us a service. For consumers, because they must take into account there is no device 100% safe; they should be a help and not a necessity (they have to be able to “survive” without them). And above all, consumers must understand that most of the data they are sharing with companies to provide them with a service is no longer theirs once they reach the company’s servers.