The market for smart home security systems has exploded in recent years, and that growth is projected to continue well into the future. There are several factors that contribute to this ascent. The widespread adoption of working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more time spent at home, and therefore a prioritization of home security.
There is also the ubiquity and (relative) affordability of smart home security systems. Once considered a luxury, these home surveillance camera setups are now accessible to more consumers thanks to big tech players like Google and Amazon – but therein lies a potential problem. Through their Nest and Ring smart home security systems, Google and Amazon are dominating the smart home security market. It’s no surprise, as they dominate so much of the IoT space and internet infrastructure at large.
This begs the question: with Google and Amazon leading the charge, are smart home security systems a paradox? These Big Tech behemoths’ respective security and privacy issues are well documented. So, are smart home security systems safe to use? Here’s everything you need to know.
What are smart home security systems, exactly?
The concept of surveillance via security cameras is familiar to most. Though up until recently, this technology wasn’t widely available to the general public. Moreso, it was deployed by businesses, in gated communities, and at retail stores, for example. However, in the last few years, that’s all changed.
With Google’s Nest products and Amazon’s Ring products now easy to purchase and configure, smart home security systems are no longer the luxury they used to be. But how do they work now? Essentially, these products are a system of internet-connected devices, with several crucial components.
The most crucial components of the smart home security system are the cameras, which are placed in strategic positions around the owner’s house. The protection perimeter can be scaled up by adding additional cameras, thus covering potential blindspots. But most often, camera coverage starts at the front door. To provide surveillance in real-time, these cameras are hooked up to the home Wi-Fi network to live stream.
The security cameras are bolstered with underlying smart technology that makes them more effective. They typically have motion sensors and people sensors. Additionally, some even have facial recognition technology, glass break sensors, and entry sensors. In the case of Nest and Ring, they also have Google Assistant and Alexa integrations.
The underlying smart technology can be leveraged to send owners notifications whenever something significant occurs. This includes anything from motion detection to the appearance of an unfamiliar face. Whether prompted or not, owners can access camera live streams at any time via a monitoring hub. These hubs typically operate in an app.
One final but crucial component of smart home security systems is cloud storage. While some of these systems can use local storage, the most popular ones rely on cloud storage to preserve video footage. The use of cloud storage also allows owners to rewind in the case of any important events.
Are smart home security systems safe to use?
Baked deep into Nest’s Privacy Statement and Ring’s Privacy Notice are some alarming details; both Google and Amazon retain the right to share your camera footage with law enforcement without a warrant. This is intended for emergency situations only, but it’s easy to see how it could be abused. Amazon has even created a form where law enforcement can request access to Ring footage on demand.
Reportedly, police have used this process eleven times to obtain Ring videos from Amazon. For its part, Google claims it has yet to share Nest footage with police without a warrant, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen down the line. While eleven total times may not sound like a lot, there’s no guarantee law enforcement requests won’t ramp up in the future. And with little public oversight, there’s a major lack of transparency in these processes.
Ultimately, smart home security systems aren’t innately unsafe to use. But if you truly care about your privacy, you should probably avoid Nest and Ring, which can be difficult to do. And even if you don’t use them, there are other security considerations at play, such as the potential for hacking.
Can hackers attack smart home security systems?
It’s no secret that online threats are rampant. Exploits and vulnerabilities are a constant, and so by living in a “smart home” you open yourself up to them. By setting up a smart home security system, for example, you instantly run the risk of that system being hacked.
That may sound like an unlikely outcome straight out of a dystopian sci-fi flick, but you should still be prepared for it. Just because something seems unlikely, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And the potential financial and privacy ramifications of a compromised smart home could be catastrophic. Therefore, if you do decide to set up a smart home security system, you should take additional precautions to protect it. Follow standard best practices for new devices, such as changing the default passwords installed on your smart home security devices, and protecting your smart home security accounts with two-factor authentication.
How to protect your smart home security system
A VPN, or virtual private network, is one of the most essential privacy technologies for everyday web use. It encrypts your connection to any network, and masks your true IP address, thus shielding your personal web use from outsiders. This has obvious benefits at public Wi-Fi hotspots, but VPNs are also incredibly useful for securing smart homes.
So, how can you use a VPN to secure your smart home? The answer is through a VPN router. A VPN router is simply a Wi-Fi router that has been configured for use with a VPN service. By connecting your smart home security system to a VPN router, the entire system will be protected with VPN encryption. The protection doesn’t stop there, however. It extends to any device connected to the VPN router, including desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and even smart TVs and appliances.
If you’re looking for the best VPN router, look no further than IPVanish. You can buy routers pre-configured for use with IPVanish VPN, or set up your own compatible VPN router with your IPVanish account.
This content was originally published here.