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70 Percent of Americans Fear Getting Hacked Through Smart Home Devices

26 February 2018

Despite the rapid advances in the smart home and internet of things (IoT) devices, security of these devices remains the top concern among consumers, according to a new survey from iQor, a global managed services provider.

In the survey, more than two-thirds of consumers (about 70 percent) are concerned about the lack of security from hackers that might hijack smart devices in the home. Concerns among the older generation are greater, with four out of five baby boomers fearful that hackers might breach smart connected devices inside the home. Unlike millennials, who have grown up sharing their personal moments on social media, baby boomers are 17 percent more concerned about getting hacked than the younger, digital native generation.

Autumn Braswell, COO of iQor, tells Electronics360 that millennials see new technology as less of a threat than older generations because they are more tech savvy and grew up in an era where social media is the norm. Millennials tend to shrug off concerns about privacy and security with a little more than half surveyed, indicating some level of concern that someone might use a connected device to listen in on their conversations.

“Millennials have different use cases for smart home technology, so it’s not so much one generation being more open to smart home technology but the priorities around types of products and perceived value of those solutions,” Braswell says.

This fear is elevated by a report from Forrester Research that says about 500,000 IoT devices were predicted to have suffered some sort of compromise in 2017. With the sheer volume of connected devices on their way to market or already out on the market, security is a concern that all consumers need to take seriously.

“Already coverage of voice assistants unintentionally configured to record consumer conversations have stoked concerns regarding confidentiality and privacy for highly personal healthcare information,” Braswell says. “It is the lack of common protocols and standards that elevates the fears within the market. There is also an education gap between the brand and the consumer on how they are protecting them from security concerns.”

While more passive devices such as smart light bulbs are less feared than other devices in terms of cyber breaches, the survey indicates there are major concerns regarding what Braswell calls the “cascade effect” in smart home devices where the failure of one device will lead to an entire system failure of all smart home devices.

While 58 percent of people fear a lack of privacy from device manufacturers who have access to data, real-time conversations, voice patterns and search history, getting hacked is definitely more of a concern for consumers.

“Consumers are less concerned that brands might tap a microphone than they are that hackers might compromise their data,” Braswell says.

Are Solutions Coming?

Part of the problem with security is that there is an absence of an organization to address consumer smart home fears. Brands need to focus on paying greater attention to preparing consumers with self-help support, as well as smarter customer service from data-driven insights and analytics based on integrated consumer and device profiles, Braswell says.

Products should be simplified to work immediately out of the box to minimize set-up issues in addition to addressing consumer concerns about privacy and security. Braswell says some brands as well as retailers and utility companies are beginning to bundle connected home devices and smart automation technology with the goal of building a secure system where all devices are trusted, secured and work together seamlessly.

“With adoption of smart home devices, consumers will need greater access to technical support to understand how their information is secured, and general support to provide a seamless user experience from the point of sale through the user’s product journey,” Braswell says. “This could be a critical business opportunity that will build customer loyalty, especially with the smart home ecosystem’s growing complexity.”

The future of the smart home may reside in bundled premium services being offered by a single trusted company that would then set-up, manage, support and secure these devices in the home, Braswell adds.

“As the smart home moves from early adopters to mass consumers, we believe many will pay a premium for a smart home that is secure, and devices that work seamlessly together,” she says.

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