The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 kicked off on January 9th at the Las Vegas Convention Center with a lot of cool new tech: ultra-thin laptops, Sophia the Robot, and solar powered smartwatches. The biggest consumer technology theme of the year, though, was smart home products.
In the near future, your home and office can be filled with basically any AI and voice assistant integrated appliance you can imagine, from window shades to toilets. Google and Amazon plan on rolling out the tech to keep you connected in your car and office, too, so the voice assistant ecosystem is seamlessly available to you basically 24/7.
Here’s an interactive diagram of what a fully decked out smart house might look like (and what it might cost).
According to Amazon, Alexa alone is already integrated into over 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 brands with more than 30,000 available Alexa skills.
However, being constantly connected to a network and adding thousands of new devices to the Internet of Things could pose some serious security risks, both at work and in your home. Many non-computer, non-smartphone devices weren’t built with security in mind: you don’t need a password to use them, they connect to your home Wi-Fi network, and “there is no anti-virus software for a smart TV,” so they can be difficult to protect.
As I talked about in my article about emerging security threats in 2018, personal devices that have intimate knowledge of our everyday lives can be a big risk for artificial intelligence attacks. AI hackers can hang out on devices for a long time undetected, learning your schedule, writing style, and profession, can go as far as imitating you and gaining access to sensitive data.
Another serious fear is major design flaws. With Spectre and Meltdown last year, awareness of the vulnerabilities of devices that had previously been considered safe has been running high. Simon Segars, CEO of Arm Holdings, which designs chips used in millions of IoT devices, said during CES that another Spectre-like flaw was probably in our future. Even a small design flaw that effects only 5% of all Arm Holdings’ chips could leave millions of devices vulnerable to malware and security breaches.
So, between design flaws and hard to protect pieces of tech entering your home and workplace, how can you minimize vulnerabilities?
- Have a strong, complex password. Although the Wi-Fi Alliance is releasing new a new Wi-Fi Protected Access software (WPA3), and it wouldn’t hurt to check if your smart refrigerator or other device runs on WPA3’s individualized encryption and greater password protection, a strong password is still the best way to protect devices on your home or work network from outside attack.
- Create different Wi-Fi networks to handle different tasks: one network to handle computers, tablets, and smartphones used for online banking, shopping, general web activity; and another for smart devices. This can be extended to smart devices in the office as well: have your Alexa-integrated lighting system or conference room monitor on a different network than your servers
- Install a unified threat management appliance (UTM) to handle intrusion detection and prevention, manage the Internet gateway, and provide network antivirus protection
- Disable remote-management access and other powerful network tools on devices that you don’t plan on using. If you’re not going to use your car to browse Instagram, and it’s probably best to disable those apps and functions. Especially for apps like Snapchat or Facebook Messenger, which keep track of your location and send that data to a remote server.