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Hackers Could Make Smart Homes Stupid--or Worse

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A smart home can be controlled remotely, inviting hacking.

A Michigan Technological University professor warns that smart-home security needs to be improved, to prevent cybersecurity nightmares like hackers gaining control of a home's central controller.

Credit: Michigan Tech News

Michigan Technological University professor Shiyan Hu is working to bolster smart-home security. He says now is the time to start thinking about cybersecurity nightmares, such as people gaining control of a home's central controller to play pranks like turning on all the lights in the middle of the night.

Hackers also could potentially access every smart home in a neighborhood, wreak havoc on utility bills, and cause brownouts, if not blackouts.

Hu's team is using machine-learning and data-mining techniques to develop algorithms that can determine if a central controller is getting accurate data and making good decisions. The algorithms would be built into the controller and the smart devices. The team is focused on both the local devices and the systems they control.

"We need to analyze the security issues in each device and design ways to cross-check the devices and the systems," Hu says.

He notes smart appliances learn from repeated behavior, and one form of cyberattack Hu describes is the pricing curve attack. A hacker could deceive a central controller into thinking that electricity rates are lower at peak time, so everything that was supposed to run at one time would come on at a later time instead. Multiple attacks potentially could cripple an entire neighborhood or town.

From Michigan Tech News
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