Is your smart home making you vulnerable to cyber attacks?

05 December 2019

64% of Brits are concerned smart devices might be hacked

Close up of Google Home device and phone
  • Almost two-thirds of Brits are concerned smart home devices might be hacked
  • Six in ten are concerned about who might be listening to their smart devices
  • One in five said they or someone in their household has accidently purchased something via a voice assistant smart device

Research1 commissioned by specialist insurer Ecclesiastical has revealed the majority of Brits don’t trust smart home devices.

Smart devices such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa have become increasingly popular in British homes and ownership of smart devices in the UK more than doubled from 2016 to 2018. The technology is more affordable than ever before and last weekend Amazon discounted Echo devices by up to 55% for the Black Friday weekend.

Nearly half of Brits have a smart device in their home

The survey revealed just under half (46%) of Brits have a smart home device, with the average owner having three devices connected within their homes. Smart TVs (56%), smart speakers (41%) and smart heating systems (20%) are the top three devices found in people’s homes2.

Of those that own a smart speaker, the vast majority use their device3 to play music (77%), check the weather (59%) and find out information (46%). One in ten (10%) use their device to pay for purchases.

Many are concerned smart devices are vulnerable

The research revealed almost two-thirds (64%) are concerned smart devices might be hacked. For example, there have been high-profile cases where baby monitors such as Nest cameras have been used to watch and speak to children. Smart toys such as the My Friend Cayla doll have also been shown in the past to be hackable.

Almost two-thirds (63%) are concerned about what data smart devices are capturing and six in ten (59%) are concerned about who might be listening to their smart devices. More than half (52%) are also concerned about how children interact with voice assistant smart devices.

Accidental purchases via smart devices

Alarmingly, one in five (19%) said they or someone in their household has accidently purchased something via a voice assistant smart device. An example of this happened when US television presenter Jim Patton said 'Alexa order me a dollhouse' live on air7. The comment was picked up by hundreds of devices with several ordering the dollshouses as requested.

Sarah Willoughby, Art and Private Client Development Director at Ecclesiastical, said: “Many of us are installing smart devices within our homes and our research has shown almost two-thirds are concerned smart home devices might be hacked. It’s also alarming to read that one in five people said they or someone in their household has accidently purchased something via a voice assistant smart device. As these technologies continue to evolve at a rapid pace, it’s important that we consider the risks associated with cyber home systems. Owners of smart home systems should consider how best to protect themselves and cyber insurance can offer a safety net should the worst happen.”

Tom Tahany, Intelligence Analyst at Blackstone Consultancy, said: “Ecclesiastical’s research shows the majority of people in the UK are concerned about security and privacy risks associated with smart home devices. Despite these concerns, nearly half have a smart device in their homes. While smart devices may offer ease and convenience, it’s important that home owners consider the risks and take steps to protect themselves.

“A quick and easy fix that I encourage everyone to consider is to change the name and password for your home Wi-Fi router. Our passwords, bank information and much more all pass through our routers, yet most routers have the password stuck to the back of the device and this can be in plain sight if perched on a windowsill. It only takes seconds for someone to take a photograph of the password and have access to your network. Changing the password for your router and admin password can reduce the risk of criminals hacking your network and smart home devices.”

Quick and easy steps to protect your smart home devices

  • Change the name of your home Wi-Fi to something random such as a combination of two words
  • Change the password on the back of your router and admin password
  • Use different passwords for different devices
  • Keep devices connected to different networks where possible and set up a guest network for friends and visitors to use
  • Don’t log onto public Wi-Fi when controlling your smart home devices remotely
  • Disable remote access on your smart devices so no one else can access them remotely
  • If you’re concerned your device has recorded something private, check and delete recordings e.g. via the Amazon Echo app
  • Have two-factor authentication on your devices where available as an extra layer of security
Ecclesiastical, in collaboration with Blackstone Consultancy, has launched new guidance to help people understand the cyber risks they face
This year, Ecclesiastical launched a new enhanced Art and Private Client policy which includes cyber cover with home systems damage as standard, with the option to purchase cyber crime and cyber online liability as additional covers.

1 The research was commissioned by Ecclesiastical and conducted by Censuswide, with 2,012 adults aged 18+ between 10 and 12 July 2019.

2 Top 5 smart home devices respondents have in their home:

  • Smart TV (56%)
  • Voice activated smart speaker with inbuilt virtual assistant (41%)
  • Smart thermostat / smart heating system (20%)
  • Smart lighting (17%)
  • Smart security camera (12%)

3 Top 5 ways respondents use their smart speaker:

  • Play music (77%)
  • Check the weather (59%)
  • Find out information (46%)
  • Check the news (44%)
  • Control other smart home devices (28%)
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