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Hacking into smart home devices is like ‘stealing someone’s life’

Friday, January 9th 2015 by Hannah Langston

The growth in the number of smart devices is increasing the risk of consumers having vital data stolen by hackers, US networking company Cisco has said.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, chief technology officer Dr Ken Morse said there is a “huge need” for consumers to be educated on the threats posed by smart devices such as wi-fi connected energy meters, and smoke alarms produced by Google-owned Nest.

“It’s a huge challenge in terms of privacy. The Nest guys were hacked recently, so then people have data about when you’re in your house, when you’re not in your house and all this kind of stuff – it becomes a bit scary.”

“I always remember when wi-fi first started, driving around my neighbourhood with my little wi-fi detector thing and thinking, ‘oh, I can get free wi-fi in about a hundred houses around here. This is cool!’

“It’s just now the stakes are much higher: it’s not just stealing someone’s broadband, it’s stealing someone’s life in some cases.”

Dr Morse said that Cisco, whose security software Homeguard can detect hacking attempts on smart devices, is making “large strides” in this area, “but there’s still a lot of work to be done”.

“I think the nature of the internet, and the internet of everything, is we’re going to continue hearing these stories are happening, it’s not going to stop overnight, and it’s more about educating people to put the right services in place.

“In a connected world you’re only as strong as your weakest link,” he added.

Dr Morse’s comments come as new statistics from analyst firm Berg Insight show there were 2.7 million smart homes in Europe at the end of 2014. This is predicted to increase by 61% in the next five years so that 13% of European households will be ‘smart’ by 2019.

Additional reporting by Ellen Branagh

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