How do you feel about your smart home devices? If you're like many Americans, you may have a love/fear relationship with them. Love for the convenience they bring to your life, and fear that they may leave you vulnerable to privacy threats. Contractor resource Craftjack recently surveyed 800 people in the US to find out how they felt about their smart home gadgets.
Why do Americans like their smart devices? The overall theme was that they make life easier. Some 60% of those surveyed cited the top reason as convenience. Some 42% said these gadgets offer a better overall living experience, while 36% enjoyed the ease of voice activation.
But smart home technology also has created a sense of security. More than half (53%) of the respondents said they feel safer in their homes because of these devices, while 55% said they would never go back to living in a home without smart tech.
Looking specifically at usage of voice assistants, Amazon's Alexa scored tops among 58% of the respondents, with Google Assistant cited by 32% and Apple's Siri lower on the list with 29%. And what do people like to ask their smart home devices? The most popular command is "Set a timer," followed by "Play a song" and then "What's the weather?"
On the downside, though, people have definite security and privacy concerns with smart home tech. One-third of those polled said they worry about their devices being hacked. Among those with smart cameras, a quarter expressed fears that a hacker could gain access and see inside their home.
As the most popular device, the Amazon Echo also topped the list of gadgets that people worry could be hacked. Security cameras, Google's Nest products, smart doorbells, and smart TVs also made the list of items that triggered hacking concerns.
Beyond hacking, spying is another fear. Among those surveyed, 76% said they believe their smart home devices are always listening to them, while 61% said they think their devices are always eavesdropping on them. Some of the fears stem from targeted advertising on their phones. Around 66% of the respondents said they received related ads on their phones after talking about something on one of their smart home devices.
But if smart home users are being spied on, who is doing the spying? Some 35% of those polled said they're concerned about hackers and cybercriminals snooping on them. Some 15% were worried about the US government conducting possible surveillance, while 16% were nervous about advertisers trying to take advantage of their conversations.
Are these fears about hackers and spies legitimate, or are smart home device owners being overly paranoid?
"Consumers should be worried, but not inordinately," said John Gallagher, vice president of Viakoo Labs at IoT cyber hygiene provider Viakoo. "They need to be worried at the same level of being worried your house might be broken into; the kind of worry that makes you take preventative measures like locking the doors. Any IP-connected device comes with concerns of it being hacked, and especially smart devices because they can carry personal information and often will also have business information."
Toward that end, smart home users should take the necessary security and privacy measures just as with any other technology.
"With any smart home tech, users should always change the default passwords, set privacy settings when and wherever possible, avoid using the Wi-Fi password provided on the manufacturer's box, and look into buying firewalls capable of filtering outbound traffic," said Nick Amundsen, head of product at cybersecurity software firm Keeper Security.
"We also recommend that users regularly check for software updates since mostly they consist of security upgrades and fixes. Finally, ensure that your Wi-Fi password is of high strength and is changed frequently to avoid a hacker accessing it."
To compile its research, Craftjack surveyed 807 Americans who have internet-enabled devices in their homes. Those surveyed ranged in age from 18 to 79 with an average age of 42. Half of them were male, 48% were female, and 2% were non-binary.