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Digital Summit: How to Secure Connected Homes?

Keeping some devices off the Internet may be the best way to secure the Internet of things.
June 10, 2014

The Internet of Things provides plenty of opportunities to make life easier: a smart thermostat like Nest can learn your routine and control your home’s temperature, for instance. A door lock like the (unreleased) August that communicates with your smartphone could recognize you and automatically let you into your home.

But how we will maintain security and privacy while connecting more devices to the Internet (and to each other) remains an open question. One speaker at MIT Technology Review’s Digital Summit on Monday suggested that keeping devices offline–at least sometimes–might be the best solution.

That’s according to Liat Ben-Zur, who leads Qualcomm’s effort to develop software called AllJoyn that makes it easier to link up different devices. She said security and privacy in a connected home could be helped by giving users explicit control over which devices actually connect to the Internet, and which ones simply talk to others in the same home.

Ben-Zur also suggested that users might be given a chance to police which outside services—for instance a weather service—are authorized to talk to their smart home gadgets.

Jason Johnson, founder and CEO of August, acknowledged that security was crucial to products like his, which links a door lock to smartphones via Bluetooth. However, he also argued that people should keep the risks of hackers taking over their smarthome into perspective compared to the more conventional threats they face.

Most burglars enter through a window, not by breaking a lock – smartphone connected or otherwise. “The truth is nobody’s going to spend hours and hours hacking Bluetooth and your device,” he said.

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