Privacy Issues Associated with Smart Home IoT Devices (How to Avoid Them)

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Everyday technological enhancements have given rise to non-stop automation of devices and services around the globe. Likewise, using the latest technology measures in place, the concept of Home-Automation or Smart Home Technology has been rapidly increasing worldwide. 

Smart Home refers to the idea of developing a smart network of home devices with diverse nature best known as the Internet of Things (IoT) e.g., smartphones, smart-TVs, lights, doorbells, security cameras, alarm systems, heating systems, kitchen, and various other home appliances!

Smart Home technology lets you enjoy the freedom to control all a broad range of devices from remote locations conveniently through a central mobile-app. These apps support Android and iOS platforms and smoothly work with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.

IoT’s Increasing Trends and Global Statistics 

Observing the IoT’s global trends in recent years gives fascinating statistics. According to Security Today, in 2018, there were a maximum of 7 billion IoT devices installed globally. This number drastically increased to 26.66 billion in just one year’s time period i.e., in 2019.

As of 2020, 127 new IoT devices connect to the internet each second, and the total number of devices is expected to reach a massive 31 billion by the end of this year. From these stats, we can depict that the IoT industry has extraordinary growth potential in the upcoming years.


IoT Devices and Associated Privacy Issues

Despite all the benefits that an IoT network brings to you especially smart solutions like changing the intensity of lights and adjusting the thermostats with a single touch button, it equally poses severe privacy risks, too, so using a VPN is recommended.

You can get a free trial of Surfshark VPN for testing and have it configured on your Wi-Fi router so that all interconnected devices remain secure from hacking attempts. Bear in mind all the devices use speakers and sensors for movement or voice recognition and are connected through Wi-Fi.

Therefore, a massive amount of information is available online and represents a high potential for cybercrime activities. Without further ado, let’s dig into some potential privacy issues associated with Smart Home IoT devices and how they impact you!

1.      Your Personal Privacy is Under Severe Risk

Deploying too many internet-based devices in the home can remotely uncover and reveal your extremely personal and private activities. If not properly encrypted or secured, a hacker may break into your wireless home network and spy on your private activities like showering or sleeping. 

There have been various recent hacking incidents of a highly serious nature where a hacker broke into a Wisconsin’s couple smart home network. He could even control multiple home systems, especially the speakers and even talked to them using the kitchen’s camera!

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Similarly, a Houston couple updated that they heard a voice from the speakers that their kid will be kidnapped, as the hacker mentioned that he was in their kid’s room. Lastly, a Northern California family reported that their camera was hacked and interacted with the hacker.

2.      Data Leakage through Smart Devices

The first IoT privacy study conducted by the collaboration of Northeastern University and Imperial College London presented extremely shocking revelations about data leakage practice being done by various smart devices like smart TVs, data dongles, and smart speakers.

The upsetting part of the report is that out of 81 smart devices, 72 were involved in exchanging users’ information with third parties. Additionally, apart from the necessary information, they exchanged information about IP Addresses, usage habits, and location data.

The last part of the report is disturbing and states that 30 out of the 81 devices even exchanged data to third parties as an ordinary document without any encryption. Not to mention, the vendors involved in such practices were market leaders like Google and Amazon!            

3.      IoT Device Tracking for Advertisers

There is a high probability smart devices are monitored and the information is being shared with the advertisers. In the past, the advertisers had to wait for longer durations to get updated reports from AC Nielsen about the user’s existing trends and preferences. However, these are now readily available!

4.      IoT Devices May Create Recordings  

As a starting point, it is vital to have a digital assistant service. Generally, people will likely either choose between Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. It is good to know that both the services demonstrate excellent compatibility with most popular devices and applications.

However, these services might turn into privacy risks as well. Be very careful concerning this as these devices may even record the conversations and keep it saved on their servers, as they have a microphone turned on all the time.

As a worst-case scenario, these recordings and sessions may even show up at the wrong place and at the wrong time e.g. during a lawsuit in a court etc. It is highly advisable to keep on deleting these regularly as Google and Amazon both have the provision to do so.

5.      Not Using a VPN Service on Devices or the Router

Finally, the most important reason that increases your privacy issues with IoT devices is not using a reliable VPN service. A reliable VPN service comes with high flexibility, and it quickly gets along well with all the devices. If it is not compatible with any device, you may install it directly onto the router.

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This way, all the devices connected to the internet or Wi-Fi using that particular router or network connection will be completely safe from hackers. Enjoy unlimited multi-logins with Surfshark VPN service with the best of low-prices.

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5 Effective Tips to Avoid Privacy Issues with Smart Home IoT Devices

Now that you are aware of the privacy risks associated with using IoT devices, it’s time to dig into some actionable steps to improve your security and anonymity:

1.      Change Data Permissions

Whenever you install or add a new device, make a habit of changing the privacy settings from default and adjust it according to your requirements and preferences. Never continue with default settings!

2.      Never Let Any Device Always Turned-On

For those devices that are mostly turned on all the time like Smart Speakers etc., make sure you change their settings and don’t keep it turn on all the time, just like the above data permission settings. These devices are most likely to be misused by hackers!

3.      Keep Updating Your Devices

Always keep updating your devices from time to time with the updates sent by your service providers. These updates contain security fixes, and updating your devices with the latest updates and software will prevent the hackers from attacking your home network and devices!

4.      Change Your Default Passwords  

Always change the default password to tricky and difficult ones. Also, make sure that multi factor verification is enabled for all the applications!

5.      Use a VPN Service

Using a VPN service is probably the best method to avoid hackers and have your online privacy intact. There are plenty of benefits to using a VPN service; however, the following are the best three advantages: It provides Data Encryption, your IP Address, and Financial Transactions as well!  

Wrapping Up

Technological advancements have given rise to the automation of various devices and services globally. Similarly, Smart Home Technology has been rapidly increasing, which lets you control the home devices remotely through a central mobile-app!

Although the IoT technology offers many benefits and convenience to the users, it equally introduces potential privacy and security threats. This guide talks about the five potential privacy issues associated with smart home IoT devices and their solutions.