News outlets have reported on countless smart home hacks over the years. However, a recent hack that took place in South Korea might be the most egregious ever on record. It occurred over Thanksgiving weekend, when most Americans were celebrating good times with friends and family. It is a hack of monumental portions, and one we would all do well to learn from.
According to news reports, South Korean hackers gained access to smart home devices in more than 700 apartment complexes around the country. They were most interested in live video feeds. Apparently, they captured footage of nude people, mostly women, along with couples having sex. They then sold the still images and videos online.
Smart Homes Are Big in South Korea
South Korea leads most of the rest of the world in smart home saturation. New apartments and homes are typically built with smart devices already installed. This includes video cameras that allow two-way communication between residents and guests. Unfortunately, residents are made vulnerable by builders and installers that do not make a whole lot of effort to lock their systems down.
In light of the recent hack, South Korean lawmakers are calling for stronger laws. They want to see builders and installers forced to implement security protocols ranging from 2-factor authentication to deploying multiple subnets that make it harder for hackers to get into a network.
Lessons We Can Learn
Here in the U.S., Vivint Smart Home says consumers are less likely to be victimized by large-scale hacking efforts. Manufacturers, designers, and home automation companies have all taken extra steps to protect devices like video security cameras. Still, there are lessons for us to learn from the South Korean hack:
Change and Update Passwords
First and foremost is the practice of changing and updating passwords. Whenever you get a new connected device, go into its software and immediately change the username and password. Default usernames and passwords implemented from the factory are freely available online, so not changing them makes you an easy target.
In addition to changing usernames and passwords, they should be updated on a regular basis. If you are using the same password on a given account for more than a year, that’s too long. Consider changing all your passwords every 3 to 6 months.
Utilize 2-Factor Authentication
One of the most effective ways you can thwart hackers is to utilize 2-factor authentication whenever possible. Many companies now require it for online accounts. You should implement it for your smart home devices and network. By doing so, you are forcing hackers to enter two valuable pieces of information to get in. If one is a special code sent to your phone or email, most hackers will not continue.
Be Careful about Camera Placement
A third lesson is one of being careful about camera placement. It is a wise idea to have a camera positioned with a view of the master bedroom, given that this is the one room most targeted by burglars. But place the camera in the hallway, not in the bedroom. The same goes for monitoring children’s bedrooms. Place cameras just outside the door. Do not place them in the actual bedrooms.
The South Korean hack was one waiting to happen due to careless installation. Here, we don’t tend to be so careless. Yet that doesn’t mean our smart devices can’t be hacked. They still can be. The lesson for you and I is to use such devices with caution. We should change and update passwords, utilize 2-factor authentication, and be careful about where we install the most sensitive devices.