Hacks, stalkers and bank breaches: The dangers of Home Technology


The future of home tech is looking pretty good.

Envision it: ten years from now – if not sooner – your driveway could be ingeniously heated to avoid snow pile-ups and shoveling during winter, as well as enable the charging of your electric car. Pass through the electronically-controlled security screen doors that lead into your living room and instead of paintings adorning your walls you may see digitally-created art, virtually displayed on whichever surface you so desire that particular day. Onwards and into the bathroom, where you clap once for lights and heating to be switched on before making your way to the ‘Smart Body Analyzer’ aka super modern mirror, capable of detecting your body weight, BMI, heart rate and more within seconds of you coming into its range. Into the bedroom and you have bioadaptive lamps, motion-detectors that set off tranquil music within instants of your entering the room, and a bed that reminds you when to have sex. It doesn’t seem real, does it?

Home technology is evolving at a dizzying pace, and both consumers and producers are elbowing one another to get onboard the tech train. According to global market research, more than a third of people living in the U.S. own two or more smart home devices today – and growth isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The question is, how much is too much?

It does send a slight shiver down the spine to think that home tech is now so advanced that soon it will become intelligent enough to distinguish between individuals within milliseconds, facilitating a change in home settings that match that individual’s preferences.  Though capturing biometrics such as body temperatures and heartbeats, home systems will automatically adjust air temperatures, lighting levels and even music to those favored by the entrant within a number of seconds. Are we leading ourselves down a path which cannot be returned, where we can be potentially outsmarted by our own home technologies?

There is an even more dangerous and rarely acknowledged downside to the glorious technologies with which we are filling our homes. Home technology has become increasingly affiliated with cyber stalking, domestic abuse and harassment cases.

One woman living in Canada – Ferial Nijem – told the Canadian Broadcast Association that she had suffered the abuse of an ex-partner who used smart home technology to stalk, abuse and harass her. Her former lover not only regularly checked in on her using home cameras installed around the property but would use internet-connected devices to disrupt her and her pets in the middle of the night in a bid to scare off any ‘unwelcome’ male company. Ferial confessed she would wake to the sound of alarms going off, lights flashing and music blaring at top level in the early hours of the morning, petrifying her and her animals to the point where Ferial feared for her life. And the scariest part of all this was that Ferial’s case is certainly not unique.

According to U.S-based organizations who work with victims of domestic abuse, home tech has been increasingly exploited by abusive partners and stalkers in the past year. Lawyers and policymakers are now grappling with a steadily rising number of never-before-seen cases featuring technology as the unofficial abuser and are left trying to figure out how to address the use of smart home technologies in restraining orders.

Cyber criminals are now beginning to look to the domestic ‘Internet of Things’ to identify their next targets, presenting a growing risk to families and individuals living in homes powered by smart tech. The BBC recently conducted an experiment that invited hackers to break into a home filled with smart devices in a bid to demonstrate how each it was to crack the security systems.

They managed to gain control of several different devices, including smart plugs, a wireless music system and DVD player. The scariest truth was revealed when the hackers gained control of the microphone on the smart TV, which enabled them to bug the living room through it. It has been said that the ease of hacking home security will become a much larger risk in future, once hackers learn how to use devices to uncover online banking data through other devices connected to those technologies.

Manufacturers have been called upon to take greater responsibility for the security of such devices by addressing the potential hacking possibilities – but it’s a very complicated matter and one not currently overseen or determined by any authority or body.

Moving forward, we not only need to think twice about buying and installing smart technologies in the most intimate of spaces we own – our homes – but ensure all consumers are well aware of the potential dangers of doing so. We need to ensure there are rules and regulations as smart as the technologies themselves to ensure those living in enclosed spaces with such tech are as protected as can possibly be by their potential effects. And we very likely need to do this soon, before we enter into the golden era of home technology.

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