Showing posts with label furnace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label furnace. Show all posts

Monday, June 2, 2014

Maybe Having a Smart Home Isn't all That Smart

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"Network World - A year ago, people were mostly talking about the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) — what companies and government entities might do in the future to take advantage of this widespread network of connected objects" (The Internet of Things gets real, Network World,

The fact is, people were talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) long before a year ago. In the mid- to late-1990s, for example, I was writing about this form of connectivity between machine and service provider/owner in the magazine I worked for as an associate editor (Security Distributing & Marketing).

Internet-Connected Appliances

One of the applications to which IoT lends itself well is that of maintenance updates to a variety of companies with regards to the equipment they sell. Examples include the following:
  • Refrigerators
  • Heating Plants
  • Air Conditioning Units
  • Washing Machines
  • Cloths Dryers
  • Conventional and Microwave Ovens
  • Chillers
  • Electrical Systems
  • Smart Electric Meters name only a few.

A good example of what could take place when your conventional oven develops a problem is that an update of the situation is sent to either the manufacturer or the maintenance company of record over one of the in-house broadband connections. The update would provide important ID information that enables the company to generate a call ticket. You would then be notified of the problem and given an opportunity to have a repairman come to your home or business to fix it.

Back in the 90's, there was talk of including some type of infrared scanning system that would be capable of inventorying all of the foods you keep in your refrigerator. When you are running low, a notice would be sent to you in email, providing you with a shopping list of needs for your use. Or, at the same time, this list could be periodically generated and sent to the grocery store of choice for delivery to the home.

The Danger of Connected Appliances

In the 90's, when we thought of Internet-connected appliances, we thought in terms of Category 5E or Category 5e cabling. Today, all of these devices will connect to the Internet through the WiFi system in our homes and businesses.

Well, other than being irradiated by more radio waves banging around the house, we will come to the stage where your refrigerator can be hacked. We know our computers can be hacked. Recent news stories have revealed that chain stores, banks and the government can be hacked. Cellphones can be hacked, which by the way we pointed out to our readers several years ago. So now we approach the time when your Internet-connected house can be hacked. It seems silly, of course, but the reality is, if your freezer or furnace can be reached through the Internet, it may be that the device you use to control them can be hacked. Which means, as we extend this thought into total paranoia, your passwords could be as vulnerable to a meltdown as your freezer. Will hackers soon be eyeing your fridge?

As most of you know, one of the ploys used by hackers is to get you to respond to an email by clicking on a link or simply replying to an offer. The ensuing information, especially where you reply, carries valuable information that tells the hackers exactly where you are in terms of the World Wide Web. It provides the exact IP address so they can work to enter your home via the network.

Although service providers are not apt to give out your IP to those they do not know, as well to those who have no business having it, this kind of information can fall into the wrong hands by a variety of ways. Any one of these signals can draw the attention of hackers, and even though you may not think this could be destructive, think again.

Hacking Your Appliances

With all the data flowing in and out of your home between the various appliances and those responsible for their on-line care, it's even more likely that hackers can find their way to your home. Once they enter the network through your heat pump, it's possible to penetrate other devices on your network, including your computer.

For example, a hacker who gains access to your furnace could reprogram it. They might change the set points--which is the temperature it comes on and goes off. They might even alter the safety controls that safeguard your home from fire.

Hackers could also enter your refrigerator, perhaps turning it off, adjusting the temperature so it freezes all the food, or they might cause some other combination of undesirable events to take place. At the very least, they would have a complete list of everything you have in it.

Would you allow a stranger off the street to open your front door, walk in, and open your refrigerator door? I didn't think so.

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