According to market and consumer data provider Statista, the global home automation market will reach a value of more than $40 billion by 2020. The U.S. ranks first in terms of adoption rate, followed closely by Japan and Germany.
With the easy availability of connected gadgets, not only can you control your home's thermostat from your smartphone, but you can also use smart cameras and security systems to see what's going on inside your place while you're away.
Advantages of Smart Home Security Systems
Smart home security systems can come in the form of standalone systems or home automation devices with an added security functionality. Here are just a few of the advantages they carry:
- Peace of mind. With a smart home security system that you can readily access on your phone or computer, you can see what's going on anytime, anywhere. Alarms activate in the event of a security breach, fire or flooding, and then it's up to you to call the police and/or the fire department. If you're not home, your system alerts the police or a private security agency (or both).
- Easy to install. Smart home security systems are typically simple to install and often require no additional hardware purchase. Sensors can be mounted with screws or placed with adhesive strips, so even renters can take advantage. Depending on the monitoring service you choose, you can either install the sensors yourself or hire a professional installer to do the work for you.
- Convenient and easily accessible. As long as you have the code and are connected to the internet, you can arm or disarm your alarm systems remotely and view your security camera footage from anywhere.
- Scalable and movable. If you're on a monthly plan with an internet home security provider, you can upgrade (i.e., add more sensors) or downgrade your plan (i.e., discontinue professional monitoring) as necessary. Plus, if you need to move to a new home, you can bring your home security system with you.
Disadvantages of Internet-Based Security Systems
While internet-based security systems come with a host of benefits, there are some drawbacks to be aware of:
- Reliance on the internet. One primary disadvantage is their reliance on the internet. The moment you lose connectivity (whether it's from equipment breakdown, ISP failure or a power outage), you lose real-time monitoring access to your home security system.
- Hacking susceptibility. Because it's internet-based, a smart home security system is susceptible to hacking. It's necessary to adopt protective measures to keep your home security and other smart systems from hackers.
- Third-party access. Some smart home security providers offer professional monitoring for a fee. Although these providers take proactive measures to secure their servers and maintain data confidentiality, it's worth noting that camera footage and data (such as when you leave or return home) pass through their servers.
Safeguarding Your Smart Home Security System
While smart security measures make it easy to keep tabs on your home, it's important to make sure they're protected to the fullest extent. Take these four steps to ensure your devices are safe:
1. Secure Your Home Network
Your first line of defense against people attempting to hack their way into your security system is a secure home network. Here are a few things you can do to improve yours:
- Change your router's default password and use a strong password authentication protocol (WPA2).
- Give your network an obscure name—something that can't easily be associated with you or your home.
- Hide your service set identifier (SSID), so anyone who wishes to connect to it must know its name and specifically search for it.
- Set up a guest network for friends or relatives. This allows them access to the internet without connecting to your primary network. What's more, guest networks can prevent network worms, such as those from infected flash drives, from penetrating your home network.
2. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Hackers are becoming better at what they do, and even strong passwords are no longer enough. Enable multi-factor authentication on the apps you use to monitor your home, such as a code sent to your phone or secondary email whenever someone attempts to log in to your system from an unknown device. This way, even if your username and password get compromised, the extra layer of protection can prevent hackers from taking over your system.
3. Keep Your Devices Up-to-Date
Ensure your phone and computers have the latest security updates. If your home security system communicates with other home automation devices, make sure those devices are up-to-date, as well. If a firmware update is available, update your device immediately.
4. Don't Use Public Wi-Fi
When you need to remotely view your home footage, ensure you're not doing so on a public Wi-Fi network. Hackers can easily intercept unsuspecting users' data in unprotected networks.
The Final Word
As homes become smarter and devices become more connected, it's imperative to secure your home security system so that it can do what it’s designed to do: protect your home and family.
Jon Snyder is a product manager at Esurance, overseeing countrywide design of property insurance products. Snyder has over 25 years of industry experience in product management, design and management roles, as well as claims roles at Esurance and other major industry carriers.