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Smart home hubs leave users vulnerable to hackers

Leigh Beeson

Smart technology claims to make our lives easier.

You can turn on your lights, lock your front door remotely and even adjust your thermostat with the click of a button.

But new research from the University of Georgia suggests that convenience potentially comes at a cost—your personal security.

The study focused on smart home hubs, the centralized device that enables you to control all your smart devices in one easy spot. These hubs rely on technology that connects them—but not your individual smart devices—to the internet.

That’s important because the hubs theoretically make using the smart devices safer. In the past, cybercriminals have hacked into internet-connected baby monitors or smart cameras in people’s homes, enabling them to monitor their target’s comings and goings.

Hackers can’t get into a device if it’s not Wi-Fi enabled.

But the UGA researchers developed a system called ChatterHub that can successfully disclose the cyber activity of a variety of smart hubs almost 90% of the time.

“The good thing is all traffic to and from a smart home hub is encrypted,” said Kyu Lee, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Lee is also the associate director of UGA’s Institute of Cybersecurity and Privacy. “The bad thing is that we were able to use machine learning technology to figure out what much of the activity is without even having to decrypt the information.”

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Image: Illustration by Lindsay Robinson

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