Is your home security system being hacked?

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The Internet of Things (IoT) trend shows no signs of slowing down. In Australia, the market stood at $7.9 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach $25 billion by 2024, a dramatic increase that accounts  for the rising demand of smart devices, growing government initiatives, and increasing analytics requirements. We’re integrating IoT devices into our workplaces – seeking competitive advantage through technology – but we’re also letting them into our homes. According to Telsyte, more than five million Australian households have at least one smart home item installed right now.

According to Stanford University, surveillance devices consistently have the weakest security protocols, along with routers and printers. Put simply, this means the very technology implemented to protect homes and businesses is the same technology that can be used to exploit them.

So, what considerations are there for implementing a security system?

The safest solution is to keep home security systems off the network

When it comes to home security systems, they’re not as secure as we assume. What’s surprising though, is that even devices not connected to the internet – such as classic, non-digitised, 1993 kind of security systems – are high risk, albeit currently a safer option.

According to security researchers, even the best-selling traditional alarm systems could be easily undermined to either suppress the alarms or to generate several false alarms which would make them unreliable. This is because hackers can trigger false alarms from a distance of up to 300 metres. What’s worse, deactivation is possible from a similar distance. This is due to the fact that most radio alarm systems are based on high-frequency signals sent between sensors which can easily be disrupted and manipulated.

Many systems cannot encrypt or authenticate the signals sent by the sensors to the control panels, which makes it easy for anyone to intercept data, decrypt the commands, and return them to the control panels arbitrarily.

Connectivity means vulnerability

Whilst alarms not connected to the network are not completely safe – it gets worse when you add high levels of connectivity to the mix. Consumers and businesses that opt for a network-connected security system risk being less secure than before.

That’s because IoT alarm systems contain more security errors than you would expect. On the surface they offer all the bells and whistles of traditional systems such as motion detectors and video cameras, and they can connect straight to a mobile device. But what they don’t offer is the assurance that the only person watching these videos is the homeowner themselves. 

The internet is filled with feeds of home and commercial camera feeds that have been accessed by attackers. But it gets worse – once connected to a system, a hacker can easily connect to the network. This gives them access to any device associated with that network; broadband, smart phone, smart heating system or computers. All the data connected to the network is in the hands of the hacker too – and data is one of our most valuable assets. 

Where do we go from here?

In Australia, where someone gets burgled every three minutes, security cameras play an important role in helping homeowners and businesses to monitor their safety, and aid criminal investigations. However, security systems of all shapes and sizes can pose security threats themselves. Connected home security systems in particular are not as secure as they should be – and hackers know this. For individuals and businesses it’s all about understanding the risks and installing systems that can meet safety demands, whilst not comprising overall security.

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