A recent survey of 2,000 people has found that more than three quarters of people are fearful of smart homes. But just 6% of people claim to actually know a lot about smart technology. So do we have a real reason to be concerned?
The research found that data collection is the biggest worry, with the majority of those surveyed expressing concern over devices collecting personal information without their knowledge or consent. The survey by Moneysupermarket also showed that:
- 51% are concerned that their devices could be hacked and controlled by criminals;
- 43% are worried viruses would render their expensive new gadgets unusable;
- 42% don’t like the thought of devices, such as wireless security cameras, recording them without their knowledge.
If you’re in the dark about what a ‘smart home’ is, take a look at our in-depth guide to smart home automation for all you need to know.
Are we right to be concerned about smart technology?
The amount of smart home tech on the market has grown exponentially in the last five years. Now, everything from TVs to washing machines can connect to the internet and be controlled remotely from an app on your phone.
The speed of growth has thrown up several security risks. There have been huge data breaches, such as the one that hit US retailer Target. In the blunder, hackers gained access to home owners’ data through their smart central heating system.
More recently, unsecure baby monitors have enabled hackers to stream the video feed online and even talk through the monitor – see our advice on keeping your baby monitor safe if you’re concerned.
Our own research has also found devices that aren’t nearly secure enough. Earlier this year, we equipped a real home with a suite of smart devices, from CCTV to a smart cuddly toy, and asked an ethical hacker to try and break into it.
Some of the devices proved harder to hack than others, but we discovered that eight out of fifteen were vulnerable. The smart hub (essentially the internet router) gave us full access to all the devices on the wi-fi network. Through the stuffed toy we were able to record our own messages onto it from outside the house.
We also found that the CCTV, like a lot of others on the market, worked over the public internet, meaning anyone could watch live video feeds from it.
You can read more about our hackable home investigation in our guide to smart home security.
Should you avoid buying smart gadgets?
No, you just need to choose wisely. Our expert tests put a heavy emphasis on security and privacy. If we don’t think a smart device is secure enough, then we will never recommend it.
Regardless of which smart devices you own, there are ways you can help keep them secure. Changing the default password and keeping the software up to date is easy to do and could be the difference between a hacked device and secure one.
What new smart devices do we want?
Moneysupermarket’s survey also asked what smart devices people would want to see and the answers were interesting to say the least.
- 29% want a self-cleaning oven.
- 11% want self-emptying bins.
- 5% want self-pouring bins.
They may seem far-fetched at the moment, but some of them aren’t a million miles away from what tech companies are working on. We already have autonomous robot vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers that can do dull chores with little human input.
So what’s next for the smart home? Take a look at our story on the innovative new smart gadgets, we spotted at the recent IFA tech show to find out.