Having just written and posted six articles about the security – and the shortcomings – of so-called ‘smart devices’, the obvious question is whether you should seriously consider buying and installing one (or more) in your home.
As an intelligent and educated consumer, I am sure that you will be able to decide whether or not a smart device offers you benefits which justify its price.
My concern, and the whole reason for embarking on this sometimes gruelling series, is not to help you decide whether you would want one in your home, but whether you would want one on your home network, with a lot of information about you and your home stored remotely on the supporting servers.
If I appear to be nit-picking, or unduly obsessed with security, it is because I, like the security researchers who are currently exploring potential vulnerabilites in such devices, can see a huge amount of pain and grief ahead.
Journalists, including myself, security researchers and even vendors have spent many years harping on about good network and Internet security.
Although far from perfect, most routers now incorporate effective firewalls which default to blocking all incoming connections, operating systems offer further sophisticated firewalls, WiFi systems default to using WPA2 security rather than WEP, security ‘blockers’ stop some vulnerable content, and above all vendors at last seem to be taking reported vulnerabilities more seriously, and rolling out security patches.
Then – without so much as a thought about all the precautions which we now take to protect computers and consumer devices such as tablets and smartphones – people seem happy to order the latest smart device without putting it through the same checks and precautions. It is almost as if many smart devices are being sold in order to make us more vulnerable (smart universe vendors such as Nest, Apple, Samsung, and possibly Hoover, and some others, excepted).
Like moths to the flame, many are rushing headlong to security nightmares and disaster.
Given that the series of articles became so long, if you are only going to read one, please make that the last in the series. It gathers together all the information and lessons from the previous articles, and offers you a clear practical recommendation: stick to one of the better smart universes, such as Nest’s, Apple’s, and hopefully Samsung’s and Hoover’s if they can sort their issues out. If a smart device does not work within one of those, you should assume that it is flawed, multiply, until proven otherwise.
Smart devices are exciting, and leading edge, and capable of wonderful things. But many will prove just to be a whole bunch of trouble.