Vulnerabilities of Smart Homes

Vulnerabilities of Smart Homes

Suchandra Datta (St. Xavier's College, Kolkata, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2444-2.ch011
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The concept of internet of things involves the establishment of ubiquitous computing devices that seamlessly integrate with our living environments, being interconnected via networks to gather information about the surroundings so as to enable the devices to interact with the ambient environment in favorable ways. With the growth of this concept and subsequent development of smart homes, it is to be borne in mind that security is of the utmost importance in such scenarios. In this chapter, the authors highlight the various vulnerabilities prevalent in smart homes, which might be exploited by unscrupulous individuals to launch cyberattacks.
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In the words of the man who is considered to be the father of ubiquitous computing, “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” Although computers and such-like devices are an integral part of different domains such as education, health, corporate offices these devices largely exist in a world of their own without being interweaved with our own. This perceptible difference between machines and our environment must cease to exist to achieve true ubiquitous computing(Mark Weiser, 1991). Devices will be embedded discreetly in different places which will interface with individuals through means other than a standard graphical set-up, for example heat sensors will automatically increase the rotational speed of a fan when the temperature rises. Construction of homes rich with sensors, which provide increased convenience to the inmates, where the devices are connected via the internet to share, process and automate actions based on the data gathered could be a simplified definition for a smart home. X10 is a communication protocol for smart homes which involves radio frequency bursts of 120kHz which enables a transmitter to turn off the lights in a room when the room is empty for a specified period of time. X10 suffers from susceptibility to noise and inability to send information to a central computer. Soon smart home technology saw the introduction of wireless signals along with radio waves. To counter the problems of X10, Zigbee and Z-Wave were developed. WSN or wireless sensor networks reduce the complexity of installation of sensors, controllers and actuators minimizing cost of production(Ghayvat, H., Mukhopadhyay, S., Gui, X., & Suryadevara, N., 2015). WSN’s offer a powerful way to monitor the different activities of the inhabitants. The lights in a room can regulate intensity with respect to sunlight and presence of occupants. Thermostats like Nest from Nest Labs Inc. are complete with integrated WiFi, allowing users to schedule, monitor and remotely control home temperatures. They learn occupant’s behavior to automatically modify settings to provide residents with maximum comfort and efficiency. Surveillance is ensured via smart security cameras, smart locks and garage-door openers, motion sensors. Life can definitely be made easier by coffee makers that brew as soon as the alarm rings or at specified times, refrigerators that keep track of food items sending a signal to the occupants or ordering the items when it is consumed, keep track of expiration dates. System monitors may sense a surge and turn off electric appliances or sense leaking pipes, turn off the water supply in that part to avoid a disaster. A new technology which can be implemented involves usage of light bulbs to transmit information or provide access to internet connectivity, much like WiFi. Termed LiFi or light fidelity, it is a novel way of providing an eco-friendly alternative to radio waves based transmission; it is faster and only suffers from the condition that there must be an unhindered path between the light bulb and the device seeking connectivity. Although it does spell wonders for care of the elderly and handicapped, it opens up lots of avenues which can be investigated for a possible attack. The components will be controlled by some central controller, once it is breached, an attacker gets control over the security system disabling alarms, locking doors, disconnecting surveillance cameras. Connection to a network always introduces the possibility of attacks hence having a fail-safe security system for smart homes are of the utmost importance. This chapter aims to highlight the various vulnerabilities prevalent in modern day smart homes, with emphasis on the technology which might be used to exploit the latter. A comprehensive coverage of security issues include man in the middle attacks, device hijacking, data and identity theft, distributed denial of service attacks and its types, permanent denial of service attacks. An attempt is made to highlight some possible solutions of the same including encryption, security integrated within the hardware, security lifecycle management and the like.

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