Whilst many newspapers have unsurprisingly chosen to focus on the ‘shock’ findings of the Which? investigation into the security of connected devices in the home, it is important to note that when Which? testing identifies a significant vulnerability with a product, it contacts the manufacturer involved. It has done this with the manufacturers of the eight affected products as part of this investigation. As a result, the majority have updated their software and security.
Which?’s testing of smart devices has largely been positive, with innovative products and systems making daily life simpler and more enjoyable within the home. As 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, with so many new and different products entering the market, the consumer group is concerned that some appliances pose a risk to consumer security and privacy.
As a result, they carried out this investigation to test whether popular smart gadgets and appliances in homes could stand up to a possible hack. It set up a home with a host of smart gadgets – from wireless cameras, to a smart padlock and a children’s Bluetooth toy – and hired a team of ethical security researchers, SureCloud, to hack it.
Some of the devices proved harder than others to infiltrate but eight out of 15 appliances were found to have at least one security flaw. As part of the investigation, Which? found potential risks with the following:
- Internet router – This is the gateway to all connected devices within the home. The Virgin Media Super Hub 2 router is set up with a simple password that many people don’t change and SureCloud was able to gain access to it in just a few days. In light of Which?’s investigation, Virgin is advising more than 800,000 customers in possession of the affected hubs to change their password immediately. It is also in the process of upgrading its customers to the more secure Super Hub 3.
- Wireless CCTV – Some wireless cameras are easy to hack. A home CCTV camera system, branded Fredi Megapix, operates over the internet using a default administrator account without a password. This is a real privacy concern and Which? found thousands of similar cameras available for anyone to watch the live feed over the internet. Worse still, the hacker can even pan and tilt the cameras to monitor activity in the house.
- Smart children’s toy – CloudPets is a stuffed toy that enables family and friends to send messages to a child via Bluetooth. Building on a recently published flaw, SureCloud hacked the toy and made it play its own voice messages.
Despite the popularity of smart enabled products and the benefits they bring, Which? believes that wider action is needed to close security loopholes so that the maximum benefits to consumers are realised. The industry must take the security of internet-enabled 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 says “…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.”
Which? Advice to help keep your smart home more secure:
- Set strong passwords: Many smart devices come with generic default passwords that are easy for hackers to guess. Set a strong and unique password, ideally with a jumbled mix of letters, numbers and special characters.
- Update your software: Keeping software or firmware updated means that the latest security is installed on the device.
- Complete the set-up: All smart devices should be connected to a secure wi-fi network. This is because many use their own wi-fi during the set-up process which, if left unsecured, is an easy target for attackers located within range of the device.
- Location, location: Be mindful of where devices are located in the home. Those close to windows or behind thin doors can be more easily accessed from outside
For more information on how to better protect your smart-home appliances, visit www.which.co.uk/smarthometips