Internet technology allowing residents to control their homes remotely is convenient but police warn householders not to leave their virtual doors open to hackers.
This kind of connected home technology, which goes above and beyond traditional computers such as phones and laptops, is also known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Heating, lighting and security systems, including alarms, cameras and motion sensors, can all be controlled remotely by a smartphone, tablet or computer.
It’s now even possible to buy a fridge that tells you when you need to stock up on food or automatically orders it for you.
Also increasingly popular are smart TVs which are linked to the internet, and smart speakers through which you can control household functions including ordering online with a simple voice command.
Cheshire Police warn that unless security measures are taken, cyber crooks could break into the network and steal your identity, hack into your bank account or just behave in an impish way to cause chaos in the home.
Detective Superintendent Aaron Duggan, of Cheshire Constabulary, explains: “There are many household items which now have a ‘smart’ version complete with internet enabled technology, making our homes more connected.
"Smart toasters, kettles, televisions, baby monitors, even lightbulbs, for example, are readily available. These all help to make life much easier but can also share information making it easier for cyber criminals to collect data to be able to carry out fraud scams.
“They do this by releasing Remote Access Trojans (known as RATs) which can be inadvertently downloaded in malicious emails, unauthorised programs and weblinks that lead nowhere.
“Fortunately there are sensible and simple steps that can be taken to help protect against online criminals and RATs. The precautions are as simple as choosing strong, safe passwords, updating device operating systems and backing up data on a regular basis, making sure adequate antivirus/antispyware is installed and staying safe while online. For example, avoid revealing personal information such as your name and date of birth on social media.”
How to make sure your connected home is safe and secure:
■ Make sure your Wi-Fi is secure – search for available wireless networks, and those that are secured will be shown with a padlock symbol.
■ For devices which need a password (as well as a Wi-Fi password) to connect, always change factory-set passwords for secure ones you create yourself
■ Never use the same password for more than one connected device or for those you use for other online accounts.
■ Make sure that all your computers and mobile devices are fitted with updated internet security software, and also that access to them is protected with a PIN or passcode.
■ Check the apps associated with your connected devices and install updates as soon as prompted. Also, regularly check manufacturers’ websites for updates as they can be slow to push them out via the apps.
■ Consider that buying well-known, reputable brands means that more care has probably been taken in securing the products – and your and your family’s security.
Detective Superintendent Duggan continued: “Hackers used to only target computers and mobile devices, but now they’re turning to connected devices because they are a lot easier to hack in to. As long as people follow the simple measures to keep their technology – and importantly their information – secure, they should be safe from internet criminals.
Anyone who becomes a victim of fraud through connected devices or for any other reason should report it as soon as possible to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2020, or via the website.