technology can perform all sorts of tasks in our homes.
on our lights. Unlock our doors. Crank up our
quite possibly, give someone access to our valuables or
our bank accounts.
rise of smart technology worries cyber security expert
Jerry Irvine, who believes many homeowners are
unknowingly trading security for convenience when they
install smart gadgets or systems in their homes.
should be concerned enough not to do it, or to pay
somebody to do it for you correctly," said Irvine,
who is chief information officer and a partner with
Prescient Solutions, an information technology company
in suburban Chicago.
not the technology thatís the problem," he said.
"Itís the way people are using it."
technology lets users control a number of functions
remotely from a computer, tablet or smartphone.
Typically the users connect to those systems via an
Internet site, and almost always the systems can be
those systems are often insecure, Irvine said. And that
vulnerability can open the door ó literally or
figuratively ó to people who are looking to steal from
say you have a smart thermostat. It operates via a chip
that has no security protection, Irvine said, so a
hacker could use it as an entry point to get access to
your computer. If that computer isnít adequately
protected with antivirus software and its operating
system isnít updated regularly, he said, the hacker
can get in fairly easily and find information that will
let him or her withdraw money from your bank accounts,
charge items to your credit cards or otherwise wreak
havoc with your finances.
you think that canít happen, consider this: It appears
the hackers who ransacked Targetís computer system got
in via the heating, ventilation and air conditioning
system, said Irvine, who serves on the National Cyber
Security Task Force, a body that advises federal
decision makers on cyber security policy.
into a smart system can give someone physical access to
your home, too. A thief could disable your security
alarm, turn off security cameras and even unlock the
smart lock on your door, Irvine said.
makes these systems even more problematic is theyíre
often controlled by smartphones, which Irvine called
"the most insecure device we have." Most users
donít even have them set up to require a personal
identification number for access, he said.
can you keep hackers out? If you want to use smart
technology, Irvine said, put those controls on their own
virtual local area network, or VLAN ó a network thatís
different from the one used for your personal computer
and other devices. Configure that VLAN so a person can
communicate with the devices on it only through an
encrypted virtual private network, or VPN.
beyond the capability of the average homeowner, Irvine
said, but you can hire a computer technician to do the
work for you. It should take about an hour and cost
maybe $75, he said.
the technician show you how to change the encryption key
ó the password that decodes the information on the
network ó after he or she leaves, he advised. That
way, the technician wonít have access to your network,
said cloud-based home security solutions are an option,
but those could still be hacked if youíre not careful.
He suggested using a unique user name just for that
account, something thatís hard for a hacker to guess
and thatís not your email address. You should also use
a unique password thatís 10 to 15 characters long and
includes both capital and lower-case letters and at
least one number and one special character ó that is,
a punctuation mark or symbol such as a percentage sign.
fact, those user name and password precautions are wise
for all your online transactions. Irvine also recommends
making online payments only with a low-limit credit card
and never allowing a website to save your credit card
make an online payment with a debit card or a direct
transfer from your bank account, he said. At least you
have protections if you pay by credit card. If your bank
account is compromised, the loss is yours.
using technology in a smart way.