New £10m Fines To Ensure Smart Home Devices Are Secure

secure Smartwatch Photo courtesy of Smartpixel.netThe British government are showing how seriously they are taking smart home security by introducing laws to protect consumers from poor smart products.

With many generic manufacturers using apps which are vulnerable to hacking or scanning and Black Friday deals which see some less scrupulous retailers attempt to sell off old tech which has a very limited period of ongoing software support, (as well as offering “deals” on goods which have been the same price for weeks prior to the sales) the government is putting responsibility for basic security protocols onto shops and makers by ensuring that insecure devices are not put up for sale.

Manufacturers, importers and retailers will face fines of up to £10m if they fail to comply with the requirements. While that seems like a huge fine for what is to many simply a software issue, it demonstrates how seriously security for consumers is being taken. It also reflects the size of the market in smart home devices, as only a fine this size can act as a deterrent for businesses who continue to make or sell substandard home automation. Read more

Your Smart Home Checklist For Leaving Your Home Alone

Hikvision security camera mounted on a brick wall next to a drainage pipe.Many of us were stuck at home last year, unable to do the usual rounds of Christmas visits to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. This year it looks like we’ll be able to make those trips again, but who’s going to look after the house while we’re away?

The appeal of Smart Home technology to most people is the convenience it offers to people as they potter around the house. Mundane tasks can be done by voice command or set on a schedule which can be set via an app on a phone. Thing is, those tasks can be just as easily taken care of if you’re away from home too.

The first thing people think about when leaving the house for a few days is whether they should leave the lights on or the curtains closed. Putting a table lamp on a timer isn’t fooling anyone any more! Instead you can use your home automation technology to turn lights on and off throughout the house, turn on a radio or TV and turn it off again as part of a routine that makes it look to anyone outside the house like the family are going to bed. It’s far from the perfect security solution, but if it keeps burglars guessing while you’re away for a few days, it could make a real difference.

Give The Impression Someone’s Home

Other signs of human activity which keep intruders on their toes is automated blinds and curtains. Anything that makes it look as if there is someone at home will help them move along, and curtains which are either shut all day or open all night are a sign that nobody’s home. Read more

Buying Tech Presents Early During The Black Friday Sales

wireless, smart home, home automation, smart speaker,We, like you hate the encroachment of Christmas into months where it doesn’t belong. Yule is at the far end of December, and if it’s to remain special, that’s where it should stay. Mince pies becoming part of Halloween fare indeed! BUT… But with the supply chain problems that many retailers are currently experiencing, for whatever reason, it may be worth getting a few of the presents which are going to be most in demand early, rather than trusting Santa to deliver a little Christmas magic nearer the time.

So how do you decide which presents it’s worth buying now, and which to leave until Christmas Eve when you can rush around the High Street in a blind panic? (You know who you are!)

On the one hand shopping for kids is pretty easy. They like toys and sweets. They don’t like clothes, books, or educational games. To find out what your, or any child wants for that matter, just watch an hour of kids’ TV with them. You’ll be subject to so many ads and characters from favourite TV shows that you’ll find that you want them as badly as the young ‘uns do!

But buying for a discerning teen or young adult is a trickier proposition. I bet secretly they’d love some Octonauts or Alphablocks merch, but not from you, that just wouldn’t be cool! Instead they’re going to want something beautiful, or practical tech. Both if you can find it. Read more

World’s Great and Good Victims of Cyber Security Data Heist

Information is rapidly becoming one of the most valuable assets we have. Businesses, governments and criminals all seem to be keen to get their hands on our data, either to find out what we think, influence what we think or not really caring what we think, so long as they can use the information they have about us to fleece us out of our savings.

The more we find out about Facebook the more it makes us wonder how safe we are online. When an innocuous site which is meant to let us keep in touch with our friends and family is accused of being instrumental in spreading hate speech, fake news and propaganda, and are giving as much as 5 times more value to Angry reactions than Likes, Loves or Care reactions, meaning that other users and group members are much more likely to see posts that cause fury than they are to see those that are touching or simply agreed with.

But this isn’t a blog about the ongoing tribulations that Facebook, aka Meta is currently experiencing. Rather this is a blog about data being taken and used as a hostage to blackmail retailers who depend on discretion to attract their customers. Read more

Looking For a Luxury Lifestyle? Try Living In A Smart Home!

Touch sensitive digital heating control panel mounted on a light coloured wall.Smart Home Technology offers a level of convenience and control which most home-owners haven’t seen for over a hundred years, when it was common for the affluent to have housemaids and servants living in the house. Instead of having people hovering around waiting for your commands, now we have technology such as Smart Speakers, Home Hubs and a slew of other devices which can all be controlled from a central station or an app on your phone or computer.

But at what cost? All that convenience which is afforded by connectivity comes at a price. If privacy is a big deal to you then the thought of having devices which have been shown to use recordings of consumers without their permission always listening is anathema. If you shop regularly online, or pay bills over the phone, as many more of us are doing all the time, then the thought that your data or conversations could be stored and shared, revealing your financials and personal information would put you off of investing in any kind of Smart device. Read more

Common Cyber Security Threats, And How To Protect Yourself

Image courtesy https://www.freeimages.com woman at computer, bills, phone banking, security, online security, secure payment, Naturally devices which are constantly connected to the internet and sending information to one-another and to you wherever you are in the world are going to be vulnerable to cyber attack. That’s not a surprise to anyone. What is a surprise though is how easy it is to use basic security measures to prevent, and more surprisingly yet, how people still get it wrong!

It’s perfectly natural to want to feel secure and relaxed in your own home, that’s what it’s there for after all. And it’s nice to have the convenience of labour saving devices around you which you can control without getting out of your chair, but what if those gadgets which do so much work for you could be put to work against you without your even knowing? What if they spied on you, collected your financial and personal information, let burglars know when you’d be at home and when you’d be out, and even let them unlock the doors to let themselves in?

Well, that’s all perfectly possible, but only if you DON’T follow the basic steps it takes to secure your Smart Home devices against hackers, scanners, and all other kinds of cyber intruders. Read more

Security Problems with Cheap Smart Doorbells Set Alarms Ringing

pic courtesy of Marjan Blan Instagram: @marjanblan, doorbell, broken doorbell, access control, Thinking of buying yourself a Smart Doorbell as a gift this Christmas? It’s a good idea, they’re rally handy devices to have, but beware of low quality products.

If you really want to treat yourself don’t scrimp and invest in the best quality goods you can afford. And that’s not just the advice coming from the marketing department! Surveys of good bought online from such retailers as eBay and Amazon discovered that many goods which are in the “affordable” end of the pool come with multiple security risks which could put your home and data in more danger than you ever would have had if you’d just stick to a good old fashioned Yale or mortis lock.

The devices which were reviewed weren’t just inferior products, they included goods which sent photos, usernames, passwords, GPS data and emails back to the manufacturer, all for no discernible reason. This is all data it’s necessary to input into the device for it to work properly, but you certainly don’t want it being shared unfiltered and unbeknownst to you with anyone.

Which? and NCC Group bought 11 video doorbells on the most popular sales platforms. Despite all looking very similar to one-another they were from a range of manufacturers, and all had prices which were remarkably competitive when compared to well known brands such as Amazon Ring or Nest on Google Home. Read more

Teaching your Nest Smart Doorbell to Send the Notifications You Need

NEst Smart Doorbell, Battery Powered, Smart Access control, smart home, home automationSave on unwanted alerts, save on battery life, save on stored footage by tweaking your Google Home Nest Battery Doorbell

The great thing about a Smart doorbell is that you can be anywhere and still see who’s coming to the door. So if you’re having a lie-in when relatives call by unannounced you can choose whether to answer the door, or talk to them via the built in speaker instead. Similarly, if you’re in the garden, or otherwise engaged when a delivery comes you will know there’s someone at the door and ask them to hang on for just one minute before the go on to the next house!

The Nest Smart Doorbell also offers motion detection which is great, but if you live somewhere with a busy pavement, or you have an active family who are always coming and going then the constant alerts to people passing will get a little bit irritating. So what to do?

Nest, The Smarter Smart Doorbell

The Nest smart doorbell has more adaptability than many other Smart Doorbells on the market, including other Nest wired products. However, they are features you may not even need if you just want something which is plug-and-play.

First of all you need to put your Nest doorbell somewhere near the door where it can be clearly seen by visitors, and where it will have a clear view of people approaching your front door. Sync it with your Google Home app and you can now get notifications on your phone, tablet, or computer whenever anyone is outside your home. The device also records and stores up to three hours of footage which you can look back over when you need to verify if someone did or didn’t visit.

The doorbell has a very wide field of view, meaning that it’s hard to creep by it without being seen, and also offers facial recognition so you know whether a car, person or pet has triggered the motion detection. And this is the technology which also makes the Nest so much more adaptable than other smart doorbells on the market. If you have a neighbour’s dog which is constantly digging up your lawn, you want to know when the little pest is up to no good! Alternatively you may not care about dogs passing your home, but you do need to know when people are present, or when a delivery has been dropped off and is waiting for you. Read more

How Likely Is It Your Smart Home Will Be Attacked By Hackers?

smart home, iot, hacking, connected devices, automation, automated homeDon’t imagine that it’s only the unlucky few who get caught out by hackers penetrating their Smart Home Automation security protocols. Rather than being a rare occurrence, hacking is a huge and ongoing problem, especially for anyone who relies on default settings to keep them safe.

Consumer magazine Which? installed a number of Smart Home devices, enough to adequately reflect those of a well equipped home, and found that in a week they had more than 10,000 scans or hacking attempts made. While scans aren’t necessarily malicious, they just look to see what products are being used where, there were more than 2,435 specific hacking attempts, which adds up to 14 attempts by a hacker to force their way in to (what they believed to be) someone’s Home Automation Environment every hour for an entire week.

Revealing Discoveries

During the trial it was found that an Epson printer and an ieGeek security camera were most often targeted by hackers. The attempts at the printer prove that it’s not always the most obvious devices which get the most attention, but those which are the least likely to be properly passworded because they’re innocuous and need to be available to the whole family. While the printer’s default password did stand up to the hacking, the camera did less well and someone was able to take control of it, giving them access to the images and allowing them to change settings. (the ieGeek camera tested has now been withdrawn from sale by Amazon following Which?’s investigation. Amazon had championed it as their Amazon Choice after more than 68% of its reviews were five star on their platform.) Amazon representatives said “We require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations and have developed industry-leading tools to prevent unsafe or non-compliant products from being listed in our stores.” Read more

Futureproof Your Smart Devices By Out-Smarting Planned Obsolescence

WiFi enabled tablet in persons handsWhen you buy a car you don’t expect the manufacturer to keep making parts for it indefinitely, just as when you buy a washing machine you don’t expect the maker to carry on producing the precise motor, hoses, belts and drum. But what you do expect is that they produce such a number of replacement and interchangeable, universal parts that you can always find a spare for years to come. But what if that broken element isn’t a cog or camshaft, but a piece of software in your Smart device?

European law is being updated to force manufacturers to make their products more repairable. You may void a warranty by taking a sticker off to take the machine apart to replace a broken doo-dad, but who cares if it was your own fault it got broken, or the thing is past its warranty anyway? With this new law they won’t be able to make goods which would be damaged or destroyed in the process of attempting to fix it. Read more