Experts walk us through all the threats lurking in our high tech homes…and tell us some simple – but not always used – ways we can better protect ourselves.
As Steven Rosson, his wife, their toddler, and their newborn enjoyed time together in the middle of their living room recently, they looked like a typical young family. Except that they live inside what is essentially a great big computer. Steven Rosson has tricked out his home with probably more than twenty smart devices and sensors. In fact, he has even started a blog to help guide other people interested in making their own homes smart.
We watched as Steven barked a series of commands to his house, which dutifully complied each time. He instructed a voice assistant to add avocados and scotch to the shopping list and it did. He demanded that the smart vacuum cleaner go and clean the kitchen floor and it immediately fired up and raced toward the kitchen. The vacuum is Chinese-made.
“It spoke Chinese to me right out of the box,” Rosson said.
But Google Home knows how to translate his English commands into computer-speak that the robot understands.
“The convenience factor is huge,” Rosson said, “being able to control the entire house without moving”.
Much of daily life in the Rosson household doesn’t even require commands to be said. Temperature and lighting settings are automatic. At the push of a button they can remotely soothe their toddler with lullabies piped into her room. There is even a button attached to a pill bottle.
“So you open it up take your pill and push the button,” Rosson said, “and then it sends you an email saying you took it at this time. And then it sends another hours later to tell you hey it is time to take your antibiotic again.”
Rosson set this all up himself.
“It’s a hodgepodge of a whole bunch of different components,” he said. “We have two or three Amazon Alexas, five Google Home minis, a couple Quickset locks, Nest thermostats, a wide array of various sensors around the house”.
He said it’s all run by $35 small clear box with a computer chip inside.
“This is a ‘Raspberry Pi,'” he said. “This is the brain”.
The smart house regularly sends them emails about how various systems are operating. Rosson pulled up one of the messages for us.
“It told me the doors are locked and the home is secured, but if I hadn’t locked the doors it would have sent us an alert telling us we hadn’t locked the door,” Rosson said. “There is a big peace of mind element to it.”
But will that peace last?
We visited a threat hunting lab at Trend Micro’s U.S. headquarters in Irving.
Mark Nunnikhoven, the vice president of cloud research at the global cyber security company, pointed to a monitor where cryptic descriptions were scrolling next to a digital count that was already well past 50,000, and rising fast.
“This is real-time – you can see this flying by here live attacks,” he said.
More than 50,000 live attacks, and Nunnikhoven told us that represents a “slow day.”
In the room with us were rows of analysts at their workstations, poring over the threats and formulating solutions to help protect Trend Micro’s customers. Many of the attacks they see are known threats, but, Nunnikhoven says, “They’re also seeing new and novel things that nobody has ever seen before.”
Trend Micro predicts that by next year there will be 50 billion smart devices connected to the internet from homes around the world. They also predicted that we will see a big increase in the frequency and scope of mass hack attempts on those devices.
Nunnikhoven lined up a row of smart home gadgets on a conference room table to break down some threats – and give some advice on how consumers can better protect their in-home technology.