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Are Smart Plugs a security risk? Smart plugs are a simple way to make your home intelligent. They have no screens or data stored on them but can these tiny devices pose a risk to your home and privacy?
What is a Smart Plug?
Smart plugs are one of the fastest-growing types of smart home appliances. They are plugs with computing and wireless communication components installed. They usually come with a companion app that allows you to control them from your smartphone. Some of them even come with orchestration abilities. This means you can tell the plug to act in a certain way based on certain conditions. An example of that is having the smart plug that is connected to your coffee machine turn on when you wake up.
Smart plugs are extremely popular in the smart home / home automation sphere. The reason being, it can make almost any device plugged into it “smart”. This includes things like being able to turn on and off various appliances remotely with the flick of your thumb in the app. You can also connect most smart plugs to voice assistants allowing you to control your whole house by talking to it. Most of the time, the only limits with smart plugs are your imagination.
The benefits of Smart Plugs
Low initial cost
The first benefit of smart plugs is they are very cheap. The average smart plug costs about $10 each. This is amazing especially when you compare it with home appliances that have the smart features built-in.
Here’s an example, a smart kettle costs about $100 on average. You can get similar functionality with a smart plug and a dumb kettle combo that would cost you about $50 total.
These devices require minimal initial configuration. They are Plug and Play (pardon the pun). It is up to the user to decide how much additional functionality they would like. One of the main reasons that people don’t get started with home automation is, they do not want to spend much time tinkering with their setup. They just want to set it and forget it.
Energy cost savings
Another area where smart plugs provide amazing benefit is energy monitoring. They allow the home owner to accurately monitor how much power each device plugged into it is using. This is very large benefit as the insights gained from this energy monitoring can lead to savings for the home owner. The smart plug may pay for itself many times over with regards to the amount of energy it helps save.
Smart plugs also shine when it comes to integrating into your current homes style. Most of these devices are very small which allows them to be used with just about any home decoration plans you might have. Once you plug them in, you and your homes guest will probably never notice them again. This may seem like a small win but it is always nice when a device can bring functionality without compromising on design.
Do Smart Plugs pose security a risk?
To put it simply, Yes. They pose a security risk. They have many open vulnerabilites but we will be discussing the two most important issues with smart plugs that will concern you as a user. Lets’s begin.
A lot of smart plugs communicate with other devices without encrypting the data it sends or receives. This is very bad as it not only exposes the data of the smart plug but also the data of other internet-connected devices in your home.
Meaning eavesdroppers can quietly and easily listen in on what your smart plug is doing. When it comes to network security, you only need one weak link in your home network to make you susceptible to all manner of cyberattacks.
A lack of device authentication
What’s worse than devices insecurely communicating with one another? Devices having no authentication! If a device lacks authentication then you don’t even need to be a hacker to compromise it. It is by default compromised.
Some smart plugs actually lack any sort of device authentication. The rationale being “it’s just a plug, what harm could be done?”. Well even though it is just a plug, it is a plug with network access. Your home’s network.
As was said in the previous point. If a hacker can gain access to one device in your network, your network is fully compromised. That means, if you have a smart plug without authentication, nothing can stop the hackers from stealing your information and spying on you.
This should make you very concerned because it means you must be constantly vigilant of the devices you add to your home’s network. If not, you could unknowingly open yourself up to all manner of cyberattacks.
We initially went over the benefits of smart plugs but we also covered the dangers that are associated with them. This should not dissuade you from buying them. When it comes to safely owning and operating smart devices, you need some knowledge about smart home vulnerabilities and home network security.
Understanding those topics will allow you to get the maximum benefits from smart plugs. If you are looking for good info on those topics, you are in luck as we have studied and written great introductory articles about smart home vulnerabilites and smart home network security. You should definitely check those out.
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