Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Anyone with a smartphone is familiar with location-based services that can triangulate and share your GPS coordinates. It’s one thing when you’re using Google Maps on the go, but this same technology is also be used in smart home devices – and it could lead criminals right to your front door.
Craig Young of Tripwire discovered and reported a vulnerability that allows a hacker to infect Google smart devices like Google Home or Chromecast with malware. From there, they can access a list of networks detected near your device, such as your neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks. Using Google Maps’ triangulation function, the hacker can pinpoint exactly where your device is located with a high degree of accuracy.
Using this technique, hackers can bring new life to old scams. For example, they can pretend to be the IRS claiming you owe more money, or they can claim to be a neighbor who caught you doing something embarrassing or illegal and demand a ransom. Because they know and can tell you your exact address, the scammer sounds more convincing and legitimate.
How To Prevent Smart Home Device Hacks
Although Google is planning to release a patch to address this security flaw, the only sure way to stop a criminal from exploiting your smart device is to unplug it. However, there are ways to mitigate your risk without giving up on your smart technology.
- Use a separate network for your smart devices. This may take a little extra time, energy and money to setup, but the security benefits are worth it. In his blog post, Young recommends setting up at least two networks for your home, one that you use for general browsing and one you use for your smart devices. This prevents a malicious website, browser extension or app from finding any of your smart devices to exploit.
- Make sure your wireless router is secure. Routers come with basic and well-known login information, so make sure you change it after setting up your network. If you forego this precaution, hackers can gain backdoor access to your network and introduce you to a host of problems.
- Be mindful of what devices are connected to your network. With all the devices that can connect to your router, this may seem like a daunting task. However, if a device you do not recognize is connected to your network, remove it as quickly as possible and reset your passwords.
- Stay on top of the news. Keep an eye out for any security flaws and vulnerabilities that may affect your devices and follow instructions to avoid becoming a target. Install firmware updates as they are released to ensure your devices have the latest security patches.
Every year, more and more companies find new ways to introduce smart devices into the market to make different aspects of your life more convenient. However, with every new wave of smart devices comes security flaws that hackers are eager to exploit. Before purchasing a new smart device, evaluate your current security standards and bring everything up to date.