The hackable home: how safe is your smart tech?

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Could your tech-filled home be at risk of being hacked?

A survey conducted by consumer group Which? and cybersecurity experts SureCloud has highlighted the risks that are posed with certain home technologies.

Smart technology in the home is an increasingly popular concept, with 78% of global consumers confirming its appeal. The ease in which you are able to switch on an appliance, order takeaway food and check the weather has resulted in a whopping 25% of the UK population currently owning at least one home device. But what happens when this innovative technology leaves you vulnerable to a cyber-attack?

The hackable home survey undertaken by Which? saw the investigation of 15 popular smart home gadgets, running tests to assess their security vulnerability. Alongside SureCloud, the ethical security researchers, the survey included tests on wireless cameras, smart padlocks, children’s toys and more.

The results found major security risks with three popular home devices. The Virgin Media Super Hub 2 router was found to be particularly vulnerable, with a simple set-up standard password which SureCloud was able to gain access to in just a few days. Virgin is advising more than 800,000 of its customers in possession of the hubs to change their password with immediate effect.

Additionally, some home wireless CCTV systems were found to be vulnerable to attack. In particular, the camera system Fredi Megapix opened up privacy concerns due to its operation of the internet, and use of a default administrator account without a password. Which? found thousands of similar cameras available for anyone to watch the live feed over the internet, with some even allowing the hacker to tilt the camera for their own purposes.

Finally, children’s smart toy CloudPets raised security concerns upon investigation. The stuffed toy, which allows family and friends to send messages to the child via Bluetooth, was hacked by SureCloud with ease.

Which? contacted all manufacturers involved in this investigation, and out of the eight manufacturers affected, the majority responded by updating their software. Additionally, Virgin Media are currently upgrading their product to the Super Hub 3.

Finally, Which? advised that more needs to be done in the area of home technology security, stating: “The industry must take the security of internet-enabled devices and smart products seriously, by addressing the basics such as ensuring devices require a unique password before use, using two-factor authentication, and issuing regular security updates for software.”

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of Home Products and Services, said: “There is no denying the huge benefits that smart-home gadgets and devices bring to our daily lives. However, as our investigation clearly shows, consumers should be aware that some of these appliances are vulnerable and offer little or no security.

“There are a number of steps people can take to better protect their home, but hackers are growing increasingly more sophisticated. Manufacturers need to ensure that any smart product sold is secure by design.”

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