Why Consumers Don’t Trust Smart Home Devices

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Smart home devices promise convenience, ubiquity, round-the-clock connectivity and control. But for consumers, security, privacy and reliability matter the most.

Nearly 70% of consumers worry about device security and privacy risks. According to Accenture, almost a quarter of consumers postponed buying Internet of Things (IoT) devices and about 20% “terminated an IoT device or service” due to security fears. Thirty-seven percent of consumers have become “more cautious when using IoT devices and services.”

Consumers are wary of putting their trust in smart home devices, and their reasons are valid. Their fears are in part fed by movies like I.T., which show the possible — though somewhat exaggerated — consequences of a compromised smart home – data breaches, eavesdropping, false health diagnoses, and unruly devices, among others.

  • Data breaches

Smart home IoT devices generate a large amount of data including machine data that can be utilized for device performance and usability optimization. These devices can also collect users’ personal information that device manufacturers can pull for different purposes.

Although it can be legitimate and specified in the terms of service, sharing householders’ personal information with other parties can negatively impact consumer trust.

  • Eavesdropping

Smart home devices collect data to learn user’s behavioral patterns and function both adaptively and predictively. The data has to be stored somewhere – in a hub or a router, for example. This poses risks because stored data can be vulnerable to cyber threats.

According to Business Insider, “manufacturers or hackers could actually use a connected device to virtually invade a person's home.” Even smart TVs can be used to record private conversations.

  • False alarms

A smart home device can generate inaccurate and false notifications and diagnoses when it is compromised, misconfigured, misused, and/or unable to gather all the data it needs to give accurate results. Smart sensors can generate false positives. Home monitoring devices for diagnosing symptoms and illnesses can also be unreliable. For example, using smart baby monitors alone may not be effective in preventing sudden infant death syndrome, according to experts.

  • Hacked devices

Hacked smart devices can result in chaos. Writer Kashmir Hill once “haunted” a stranger’s house to prove a point. She describes what she did in a Forbes article,  and explains that it can be done to devices with “crawl-able links” or links that can be searched via the Internet. Once a hacker pulls the links, they can remotely turn smart devices on and off and command them to perform tasks without the owner’s consent.

  • Lateral attacks

A compromised smart device often times has enough processing power and memory to house malware that can propogate to other devices on the home networks. For example, if a hacker gained access to a surveillance camera and reloaded the firmware with malware, like the Mirai virus, that new software program could begin attacking other devices, exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s operating system to infect personal computers and steal information or install ransomware.

Smart device manufacturers that fail to deliver the level of security, reliability, and privacy that customers demand can lead to regulatory, commercial, and safety risks. Although “more than two-thirds of consumers plan to buy connected technology for their homes by 2019,” security fears may hinder actual growth.

IoT device designers and manufacturers should focus not only on the performance and usability of their smart devices — they should also pay close attention to their encryption mechanisms and security measures to make the devices trustworthy. Security must be built into the product from the beginning stages of design.

Mocana’s IoT Security Platform

Mocana IoT Security Platform provides unconventional security mechanisms specifically designed to meet today’s IoT security requirements. The platform is comprised of modular cybersecurity software components that can be embedded into smart devices such as thermostats, surveillance cameras, HVAC controllers, cable set top boxes, smart lighting controllers and wireless access points to lock them down and prevent unauthorized access.

Drop us a line to learn more about the Mocana IoT Security Platform.