Consider security issues before automating homes

It was reported that ViewQwest will help home owners set up their smart homes for free when they buy a fibre broadband line ("ViewQwest makes play for market to automate homes"; last Friday).

However, the service provider did not mention the security aspects of such an undertaking.

As it is a matter of public interest, ViewQwest should address this issue.

As with any new technology, smart home devices come with risks. It is important to keep security in mind because anything designed by a human can be reverse-engineered by a human.

The risks are plenty. For example, hackers could access a home's heating system and make it uncomfortably hot, or turn the lights on and off at random.

More concerning is their ability to unlock doors remotely or even profile a home for robbery based on home energy use.

Smart homes can be a target for crime. When hackers hack into the power grid, they can find out where the wealthiest houses are, and the owners may not even know for months that their security has been compromised.

What level of security is built into the smart devices sold by ViewQwest?

Web-based home apps are vulnerable to power surges and lightning strikes, which can affect a home's entire electrical system.

Therefore, it is essential for customers to understand the full scope of benefits and costs before installing and downloading apps.

What about Web security threats? Smart appliances equipped with Wi-Fi and touch screens may promise convenience, but may also result in cyber-hazards.

This is because any time we connect a tool to the Internet, it becomes possible for someone to access it. There are also threats to one's privacy.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Consider security issues before automating homes'. Print Edition | Subscribe