How to Keep Your Green Home Smart and Safe
Smart homes use advanced digital technology to allow the home’s systems and devices to communicate with each other and with us. Internet connections are often activated via a smartphone app and it is now possible to control the operations of heating or lighting systems, domestic appliances and home security systems this way. From smart TVs and baby monitors to smart electricity meters, coffee makers, laptops and fridges, smart home tech can provide your green home with comfort and convenience while enhancing security and energy efficiency.
Reduce Energy Consumption with Home Automation
By making smart choices intended to reduce energy consumption, home automation can make our homes greener in lots of different ways. You can regulate the temperature in your home via your mobile phone. In this way, you don’t waste energy heating your home when you’re not there. Smart thermostats, such as Nest or Hive, can learn your temperature preferences and occupancy patterns to maximize energy efficiency. This means your green home will be cozy when you need it and not when you don’t.
The same thing goes for smart lights. We all know how important good lighting design is to give you a comfortable ambience. Your best option, however, is to upgrade your lightbulbs to smart LEDs and adjust them via a control panel in the home or remotely via a smartphone app when you’re out. Smart lights can be programmed to come on and go off at certain times of the day. Even better, you can be alerted via text message when someone’s left the lights on, and then turn them off remotely!
How about automatic opening and closing of curtains and blinds? Program your smart home system to close the curtains at nightfall, or during the hottest part of the day, to save energy and lower your carbon footprint.
Don’t forget the Internet of Things, a grand term describing WiFi-connected appliances and devices we have in our homes – from wearable health monitors (such as the Fitbit) to pet monitors, washing machines, high-speed wireless internet and more. Take control of your green home via smart home systems from your mobile phone, tablet or laptop. Maximize the efficient use of resources while minimizing their impact on the environment.
Question the Security of Your Digital Systems
So far, so encouraging. It’s all very well in terms of making our homes more energy efficient, but have you ever wondered are these systems actually secure? Hacking and identity theft are major problems in the digital sphere with potentially devastating consequences for users in real life.
A recent report found credential theft to be a pervasive problem, especially where users set weak passwords and use them across multiple accounts – something we are all guilty of to some extent. The report recommends multi-factor authentication (MFA) as a simple, but effective, way to significantly reduce the risk of security breaches in the event of passwords being stolen. Regrettably, the message doesn’t seem to be getting through. According to 2020 figures released by Microsoft, only 11% of its customer base used MFA.
If you believe the risk of your smart home being hacked is small, here’s a sobering experiment carried out this year by Which that should serve as a clear warning not to underestimate the threat to you and your home. For the purposes of the experiment, a fake smart home was set up with a range of real consumer devices including TVs and thermostats, a smart kettle and home security system, all connected to the internet.
The results showed a jaw dropping scale of hacking activity against the home devices. In the busiest week of testing, 12,807 unique scans/attack attempts were recorded, equating to 14 attempts by real-life hackers to brute force their way into the devices each hour! The origins of hacking came from all over the world, chiefly the USA, India, Russia and China.
Prioritize Security and Protect Internet Connections
It is clear, in order to keep your green home smart AND safe, security plays a crucial role. For its part, the government has recognized the pressing need to regulate insecure connected products and will be introducing the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure (PSTI) Bill in due course to address the issue.
In the meantime, there are simple steps you can take to make a big difference in the internet security of your smart home:
- Change default passwords: Weak default passwords are the easiest way for a device to be hacked. Make sure you change any password that comes with a product and replace it with a strong unique password. Among the provisions of the new PSTI Bill is easily guessable default passwords on connected devices such as ‘password’, ‘000000’ or ‘admin’ will effectively be made illegal.
- Enable all security options: Find out exactly what security features are available for the device in the manual or app settings, and enable everything you can. If two-factor authentication (TFA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) are available as an option, use them to give you added protection.
- Install security updates when prompted: Don’t ignore security updates for the product or app; the updates are designed to give you the maximum level of security protection. The new law will oblige manufacturers to tell their customers at the point of purchase how long the product will be supported with updates.
- Look out for phishing scams: Stay vigilant to any phishing messages sent to you via email or text. Some smart devices or systems can be exploited remotely by way of a phishing attack, tricking the user into giving away information enabling the hacker to compromise the device.
In conclusion, renewable technologies and smart home devices may be on the rise, but the technology that powers and controls them needs a strong and secure foundation in order to be successful. If smart meters can be hacked and home devices compromised, it undermines consumer trust in the technology. By extension, this puts added obstacles in the way of adopting more energy efficient lifestyles. Product manufacturers, cyber security experts, government officials and consumers all need to work together to achieve the benefits of the greener world we all desire.