Understanding Home Automation Systems and Wi-Fi Networks

You’ve probably guessed that we are strong supporters of DIY home automation systems. We are especially fond of wireless technology that makes today’s DIY systems so attractive to consumers. With wireless technology, you can install your own home automation system minus any costly and time-consuming construction. It’s as easy as turning your devices on and programming the software that comes with them.

Consumer Reports did some extensive research in 2014 on the home automation market. The point of their research was to test some of the more popular devices and systems from major manufacturers in order to determine strengths and weaknesses. They found some very interesting things, including how home automation systems and wi-fi networks interact. This is what we will address in this blog post.

Wi-Fi Instead of Hard Wiring

We suppose it would be theoretically possible to install a fairly decent home automation system that relied on traditional hardwiring of both electrical current and communications networks. But the cost of doing so makes such an installation prohibitive in most cases, especially in existing homes.And so, wireless is the answer. However, wireless devices require a wi-fi connection to work properly.

Almost all home automation devices these days communicate with one another and their central control panels through wi-fi signals. Either they have a dedicated network based on the control panel, or they piggyback on the consumer’s existing wi-fi network. It is the latter option that can cause security problems.

There have been cases in which wi-fi networks that were otherwise secure ended up being compromised by hackers able to get in through an unsecured home automation device. There was a joke about refrigerators being hacked a couple of years ago. Home automation hacking is exactly what people were referring to when they talked about refrigerators being hacked.

Every Device Must Be Secure

By now, we are all aware that wireless routers need to be secured when first installed. We also know that we need to access the software setup to change usernames and passwords and that we have to use some sort of encryption to prevent outside access. But for some reason, people cannot seem to understand that devices that connect to a home network must also be made secure.

If a hacker can identify your network, he or she can then begin to scan it to see if there are any unsecured devices on it. For example, let’s assume you are using a brand-name wireless system you purchased off the Internet. Let us also assume you did not change the default username and password when you installed your control panel. Any hacker can go online and get the default information quite easily. With that information he/she can access your unsecured device, thus gaining entry into your home network.

According to Consumer Reports, the 2014 episode that garnered so many jokes throughout the global media resulted in more than 750,000 phishing e-mails being sent from compromised devices over a period of two weeks. Although no one knows the exact make and model, the culprit was a specific kind of smart kitchen product that was sold to customers with inherent security weaknesses.

Although Home automation systems can be vulnerable to attack due to their use of wi-fi networks,consumers need to take the necessary steps to prevent intrusion. This starts with changing default passwords and usernames at installation.Where necessary, home networks need to be beefed up with encryption. Consumers might even consider hiding their networks if their home automation devices support the technology. Taking no precautions should not be an option. Doing so is an open invitation to network breaches.

Sources:

1.Consumer Reports – http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/06/run-your-home-from-your-phone/index.htm

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