Not everyone wants a smart home. Those who have it forced on them don’t feel safe in their own residences.
Patric Sandri / Getty Images
Daniel Bishop remembers the day he stopped feeling safe in his own home.
In January, Bishop and his neighbors at an apartment complex in San Jose, California, got a message from their property manager.
Every apartment was going to become a smart home, with a connected lock, water sensors, a smart thermostat and a wireless control hub to control it all in each house. They had a meet-and-greet event five days later for tenants who had questions, and then about two weeks later, the homes were fully converted.
Bishop, like many of his neighbors, didn’t ask for this, and he didn’t have a say in the change. It was his landlord’s decision, and so on installation day on Feb. 1, he looked at his new smart lock and tried typing in the unlock code that was texted to him.
It didn’t work. For nearly an hour, the software entrepreneur worked with the property manager to open his smart lock. A maintenance worker finally fixed it by connecting the hub to Bishop’s personal home network without asking for his permission, which he took as a serious breach of privacy.
Bishop’s story underscores the growing — but awkward — embrace of smart-home technology. Filling your abode with a collection of internet-connected devices is a trend that’s sweeping across homes everywhere, even if it potentially creates security vulnerabilities. It’s also caught on with apartment landlords, who see smart-home technology as a way to attract more tenants and save money by monitoring energy and water usage. But the aggressive embrace of innovation could leave tenants, who don’t have a say in the upgrades, steaming.
“My fiance saw me and said, ‘you look absolutely furious,’ and it’s because I am,” Bishop said. “You don’t have control in this situation and it’s being thrust upon you.”
Smart-home gadgets can collect data on residents and sell it to advertisers. Then there’re the hacks. But with regulations lagging behind deployments, the most tenants can do to opt out of their new smart home is to move out.
“They suddenly have to choose between no home and a place where they perceive themselves to be spied on,” said Kathleen McGee, the former chief of the New York State Attorney General’s internet bureau.
Landlords are jumping on the smart-home bandwagon.
The market is expected to reach $53 billion by 2022, and a 2018 survey by Entrata, a real estate software management company, showed that a majority of renters wanted smart-home features over amenities like on-site child care.
Smart homes offer benefits to both landlords and tenants. Property managers can monitor activity reducing waste, while also charging higher rent, while tenants have a convenient way to get into their homes, control their lights and the room temperature. With landlords managing it, they don’t have to buy expensive internet-of-things devices on their own.
The boom in popularity is how SmartRent, a smart apartment company based out of Arizona, found itself in 20,000 homes over the last two years.
“This is the No. 1 amenity requested by residents,” said Lucas Haldeman, who founded SmartRent.
But not everyone is happy about their landlords shifting them into a smart home — like Bishop, who had privacy and security concerns with SmartRent.
For all the convenience that IoT devices provide, connected devices introduce new risks for hacks. Families were terrorized from a hacked Nest Cam blaring alarms, while a Nest thermostat was hijacked to thrust temperatures up to 90 degrees.
And while 1 in 4 households intend to buy a smart lock this year, security researchers have consistently found vulnerabilities with locks allowing possible intruders to break in.
That history of security issues for IoT devices has some of the more savvy tenants on alert, raising a worry they didn’t have about their homes before.
“When you take something as critical as access to people’s homes, and throw it on the internet, you raise the risk exponentially for people to get information about you,” Bishop said.
Home invasion of privacy
Andrew McPherran, a software engineer in Washington, had his home converted by SmartRent last November.
He took a closer look at the new devices installed in his home. It included a Yale smart lock and a ZipaMicro control hub, which connects to all the devices through a radio frequency called Z-Wave.
All communications between the hub and the local network was encrypted, but there were other issues, McPherran said.
For one, his property manager has two PIN codes for the lock, and he doesn’t know how it’s kept safe.
“There’s a lot of places in that chain where that data is being managed by third parties, and I don’t really know what they have in place to protect that,” McPherran said. “I’m more worried about where the data is going versus someone breaking into my home.”
Haldeman said that SmartRent does not share data on tenants, and the data is wiped every 30 days. That’s not the case, however, for every company.
Smart-home companies like Zego, Stratis and Vivint boast more than 250,000 upgraded units, and their privacy policies give permission to use a tenant’s data for advertising and marketing.
Vivint Chief Technology Officer Jeremy Warren said in a statement that it allows customers to opt out of marketing.
Zego CEO Adam Blake said in a statement that the company was “committed to preserving the integrity of its relationships with residents.”
In most states, landlords are required to give notice to tenants before entering your home. But with data collection, landlords have a constant virtual presence in these homes, said McGee, who now works as a technology counsel at the Lowenstein Sandler law firm.
“With this, landlords are, in theory, in your apartment every day collecting information,” she said.
Then there’s the risk of hacks. Andrew Tierney, a security researcher with Pen Test Partners, was able to completely take over 200 devices after hijacking a smart hub, allowing them to unlock doors and disable alarms.
“I’m very cynical that you can install that many smart locks and hubs and not end up with lots of problems,” Tierney said. “Having all of this stuff forced on you is concerning.”
Haldeman said SmartRent takes its security seriously, with biannual penetration tests and three security engineers.
“If you look at all the wonderful benefits that the internet of things is bringing, I think we can balance that,” he said. “Everything we offer, I think is more secure than what was in place before.”
Some openings still slip through the cracks.
After the installation, SmartRent sends the resident the door unlock code in plain text through SMS and email. Anybody who has access to your email or phone can unlock your door.
“Lose your phone, have your email hacked, and then someone has the PIN,” Tierney said. “It should be a link to allow someone to set it to their own choice over a secure channel.”
SmartRent said it implemented an option in late February to send the PIN codes as a link that expires in 30 minutes to address this security issue. But tenants can’t enable it, so unless property managers turn it on, they’re still at risk.
The smart lock installed on Andrew McPherran’s door.
Courtesy of Andrew McPherran
With SIM hijacking and more than 2 billion leaked credentials online, getting access to a PIN code on a massive scale could be easier than stealing a set of physical keys.
Some tenants disagreed with Haldeman’s argument, and said the smart locks make them worry.
SmartRent upgraded Robert Lang’s Denver apartment last November. He experiences lockout issues occasionally — whenever his phone has spotty service and can’t connect to his app.
“Sometimes, I would leave the house and the app would say that my front door was unlocked when it was actually locked the whole time, and vice versa,” Lang said in an email. “The lock and code work fine, but the connection issues leave you with an uneasy feeling.”
Bishop isn’t opposed to smart homes, and has installed a few smart gadgets on his own.
Similar to McPherran, he wishes he had the choice to opt out of the upgrade.
McPherran said he isn’t comfortable with an outside company’s gadgets in his house, he said.
“I would’ve opted out given the option,” he said. “Any of the utility that it provides, I could’ve gotten for myself with more of my own choices, and trust how my data is being used.”
Bishop’s taken a few measures to ensure his own security, like immediately removing SmartRent’s hub from his home network after the maintenance staff left.
The changes have left McPherran and Bishop with security worries, but neither are moving.
McPherran’s lease ends in June, and he said it’d be too expensive to break the contract and move out earlier. As for Bishop, he came pretty close to packing up.
“It was infuriating,” he said. “I was close to it, but not quite over the hump where I was ready to uproot my whole life.”
Xiaomi Launches ‘Mi Store on Wheels’ Moving Retail Shops in India
Xiaomi has launched its Mi Store on Wheels retail experience in India. Through this, the company says it can reach out to the “heart of India,” with a focus on connecting villages and remote parts of the country. Given the ongoing coronavirus-induced pandemic, several offline retail stores in the country has taken a hit as…
Xiaomi has launched its Mi Store on Wheels retail experience in India. Through this, the company says it can reach out to the “heart of India,” with a focus on connecting villages and remote parts of the country. Given the ongoing coronavirus-induced pandemic, several offline retail stores in the country has taken a hit as customers are mostly restricted to their homes due to consequent lockdowns. However, with this new retail strategy, Xiaomi’s offline team can now bring the company’s retail experience to customers at home.Manu Kumar Jain, Xiaomi Global Vice President and Managing Director of its India operations, made the announcement today with a tweet. Jain shared several photos of the mobile stores in action. Designed like any regular food van, the Mi Store on Wheels is essentially a moving van with a pop-up store set up on its rear. Apart from selling the company’s latest smartphones, the stores sell other offerings as well, including Mi Smart TVs, Mi Box 4K, Mi TV Stick, Mi CCTV Cameras, Mi Sports Bluetooth Earphones, Mi True Wireless Earphones 2, Redmi Earbuds S, Mi Sunglasses, powerbanks, and chargers.Jain said that the project was completed within 40 days, with an aim to bring Xiaomi products to customers in villages and non-metro cities. The mobile van seen in the photo carries a distinct serial number on its doors, that appears to be the company’s way of tracking its mobile stores. Xiaomi hasn’t revealed the list of cities or states where the stores will be deployed first.Mi India COO Muralikrishnan B said in a prepared statement, “With this new initiative and having the largest exclusive single brand retail network, we are determined to reach the remotest of areas in the country and address the needs of customers, bringing the Mi Store experience to their neighbourhood.” He also said that the moving stores will maintain social distancing among crowds and will follow all necessary hygiene and safety practices.The Mi Stores on Wheels will also take feedback from customers, who can request for any specific product they have in mind for when the store returns back to their city.In other Xiaomi-related news, the company recently hinted at the launch of its first smartwatch in India. The Mi Watch Color that was launched in China in January this year is expected to make its way into the country, rebranded as Mi Watch Revolve. The smartwatch and several more IoT products are expected to be revealed at the company’s Smarter Living 2021 event on September 29.Is Redmi Note 9 the perfect successor to Redmi Note 8? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
Google Home: Two settings to achieve max smart home privacy – CNET
Keep your personal information private by setting up Voice Match on Google Home. Josh Miller/CNET Some things Google Home knows about you are obvious — what music you like, how bad you are at math — because those are the things you rely on it for the most. But Google Home ($130 at QVC) knows a…
Keep your personal information private by setting up Voice Match on Google Home.
Some things Google Home knows about you are obvious — what music you like, how bad you are at math — because those are the things you rely on it for the most. But Google Home ($130 at QVC) knows a lot more about you than you might realize. That’s because your smart home speaker is tied to your Google account, so it’s also connected to a deep well of personal information, like your email address and debit or credit card number. That means privacy and security settings are just as important with Google Home as with your Gmail account.A lot of the same steps you should take to protect your Gmail account, like using a strong password and checking your recovery contact information, will help secure Google Home as well. But you may not know how to get to those settings using the Google Home app, which may be the only Google app you have on your phone or tablet.
Our newsletter sends you the best tips for your Google Home smart speaker.
Here’s how to find and set the two most important privacy and security settings using the Google Home app.Facial recognition technology has come under fire from privacy advocates, but it can also be used to help secure your data.
Secure your privacy with voice or face recognitionWhen you set up a Voice Match profile on Google Home, your smart speakers will listen for your voice and use it like a fingerprint to identify you. That way, only you can check your calendar, add to your shopping list or watch your YouTube playlist on Nest Hub smart displays. Other people can still use Google Home and can even set up voice profiles with their own Google accounts, but only you will have access to your information.That said, turning on Voice Match means possibly giving Google data about what you sound like. Google says that information is stored on your devices themselves and not in the cloud, although it may be “temporarily sent to Google to better identify” you. If you’re not OK with that, this feature is not for you.Here’s how to set up Voice Match with Google Home (the process is the same for Face Match, only it uses your device’s camera and your face rather than its microphone and your voice):1. Open the Google Home app, then tap your personal icon in the upper-right corner, then tap Assistant settings.2. On the horizontal menu bar, tap Assistant and then scroll down and tap Voice Match.3. Tap Add a device. The Google Home app will scan your current Wi-Fi network for compatible devices. Once it does, tap Continue. 4. Under Activate Voice Match on this device tap the box labeled I agree, then scroll to the bottom of the next screen and tap the next box with I agree.5. Follow prompts to teach Google to recognize your voice.Two-factor authentication isn’t foolproof, but it does add a layer of security that makes breaking into your online accounts more difficult.
How to set up two-factor authentication on Google HomeTwo-factor authentication, aka two-step verification, isn’t a completely foolproof means of securing an online account, but it’s miles better than nothing at all. Having two-factor set up on Google Home means if anyone were to try to, say, set up a Google Home smart speaker using your stolen login info, they’d likely be thwarted unless they had also lifted your smartphone. The point is that it won’t hinder nor degrade your experience using Google Home, so there’s really no reason not to set it up.The first thing you need to do is different depending on your phone:Android: make sure you’re signed into the account you use for Google Home by opening Settings, then tap Accounts and then Add Account. Choose Google and sign into your account.iPhone: Download the Gmail app from the App Store, if you don’t already have it, and sign in with the account you use for Google Home, then Allow notifications when promptedTwo-factor authentication won’t impact how you use your Google Home smart speaker once you’ve set it up.
The rest is the same for every phone:1. Open the Google Home app, then tap your personal icon in the upper-right corner, then tap Assistant settings.2. Beneath the You menu, tap Your data in the Assistant then scroll to the very bottom.3. Under More option to manage your privacy, tap the box labeled Google Account.4. Scroll the horizontal menu bar at the top (the one that has Home, Personal info, Data & personalization) over and tap Security.5. Under Signing in to Google, tap Use your phone to sign in. On the next screen tap Set It Up then enter your password and tap Sign in.6. The screen should now say What you need with Your phone (with your phone listed) and Touch ID checked. Tap Next.7. Beneath Try it you should see the email address for your Google Account. Tap the button labeled Next beneath it.8. You should immediately get a notification on your phone asking Trying to sign in? (if you’re on an iPhone this notification will come from the Gmail app). Tap the notification and select Yes.9. If your phone asks if you want to use either facial recognition or fingerprint identification (whichever your phone has) select Yes.10. Go back to the Google Home app, which should now say It worked! Turn it on? and tap the box that says Turn On.Check out our full guide to shoring up your Google Home privacy and security settings here, or our even broader guide to securing your overall Google account here. For email-specific privacy settings, here are four Gmail settings to change right away.
Samsung Brings Its Flagship Camera Innovation to Galaxy A Series – GalaxyA71 & A51, to Make Your Social Profile Awesome
Our social media profiles are reflection of our true personalities. Needless to say, we make that extra effort to make them look and feel special. What helps us in the process is a powerful smartphone that can not only capture stunning photos and videos, but also help us quickly process and share them across to…
Our social media profiles are reflection of our true personalities. Needless to say, we make that extra effort to make them look and feel special. What helps us in the process is a powerful smartphone that can not only capture stunning photos and videos, but also help us quickly process and share them across to our friends and family members.Samsung’s phones are known for their excellent smartphone cameras. Over the years, the company has been shipping highly innovative and impressive cameras on its flagship smartphones. Samsung is now bringing its innovative flagship camera experiences to its Galaxy A series phones, the Samsung Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A71. These new flagship-level camera features can help you spice up your social media profiles by capturing and sharing stunning photographs and videos.Let’s take a look at some of the most impressive new camera features in Samsung’s Galaxy A71 and Galaxy A51 smartphones at can help you take your social media posts to the next level:Single Take Makes Your Special Moments Extra OrdinaryEverything you do is worth sharing on your social media profiles and messaging platforms. Your social profiles help you stay connected to your loved ones by helping you share your most memorable moments. Single Take is a new feature on Galaxy A71 and Galaxy A51 smartphones, which was earlier available only on Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S20 series.Single Take lets you indulge in your special moments, while still capturing the best parts of it. Imagine being at a birthday celebration of a loved one, and wondering about which camera mode to select. Single Take can help you enjoy the moment while still being able to capture all the important details in a maximum of 7 photos & 3 videos based on the moment and lighting condition.All you have to do is pick Single Take mode, and capture a moment for a few seconds. Your Galaxy A71 or Galaxy A51 phone will be able to deliver stunning photos and videos that ensure you don’t miss out on anything important, and still end up with a bunch of great photos and videos to share on your social media profile.Night Hyper lapse to Impress Everyone on Your FeedOut at a party? The new Night Hyperlapse mode can help you capture stunning night-time videos to impress your social media friends and family. The mode helps you capture long-exposure style videos and light trails that are nothing but pieces of pure bliss when you share them on your social media profiles. Your friends and family will nudge you, asking you how you captured these. Night Hyperlapse mode is now available on Samsung Galaxy A71 and Galaxy A51 phones.Custom Filters to Add that Special Touch to Your PhotosWhile social media is fun, it’s also filled with a lot of noise. You’re not going to make it if you don’t look different and extra special. Well, Samsung has you covered here as well. The new Custom Filters feature in the Samsung Galaxy A71 and Galaxy A51 can help you create stunning and highly personalized photos using custom-set filters.All you have to do is create a custom filter using any of your existing photos. Custom Filters uses on-device AI to capture the rich colours and vibes of your existing photos. You can then use these filters and apply them on new photos you capture on the Galaxy A71 or Galaxy A51 to create personalized photos. Once you share these on your social media profiles, they’ll look stunning and extraordinary, unlike anyone else’s photos.Smart Selfie Angle to Make You and Your Friends Looks GreatSelfies are quite an essential part of social media. While everyone is shooting and sharing selfies, not all of them are going to look as good as yours, thanks to this highly innovative camera feature on the Galaxy A71 and Galaxy A51.The new Smart Selfie Angle mode on the Samsung Galaxy A71 and Galaxy A51 help you capture great selfies with your friends. Every time you use the front camera to capture a selfie with your friends, the camera can automatically switch to a wide-angle mode. The mode is built to capture great details when more than one person is involved in a selfie. This means your selfies with your friends are going to look fabulous when you share them on your social media profiles.Quick Video to capture videos easily when you are in the moveNever miss an important moment in your life by fiddling with smartphone camera modes. The new Quick Video mode in the Samsung Galaxy A51, Galaxy A71 lets you capture a video by long-pressing the camera button to kick off the recording. You won’t have to manually switch to the video recording mode in the camera while you shooting for your social media profiles.It makes capturing videos for your social media post simpler and easier, especially while you’re on the move. Quick Video is essential to capture those precious few seconds of moments which you’ll cherish for a long time in the future.Switch Camera While Recording that can help you save a lot of timeYou can now seamlessly switch between front and rear cameras while recording a video on your Samsung Galaxy A51. The feature is great for social media influencers and other users who want to create pro-level videos using both front and rear camera. You don’t have to stop recording to switch cameras anymore, making it more convenient and efficient to capture great videos.AI Gallery Zoom Adds That Magical Touch to Existing PhotosAI Gallery Zoom is a great feature that make the images look sharper & clearer. For example, if you get one of your photos from a friend, on a messaging platform, it could turn out to be slightly blurred due to compression systems.This feature ensures those unclear photos look more clear in your Gallery. It can make images look sharper and visually appealing, so you can easily share them on your social media profiles. The feature uses an on-device AI-powered mechanism so your personal data doesn’t leave your phone ever. The feature is also useful if you’re migrating from an older, less powerful smartphone, and are importing photos from it.Samsung Galaxy A71 and Galaxy A51 Are Perfect for Social InfluencersYou can capture a wider world with the Ultra Wide Night Mode camera’s wider field of vision. The Quad Cam’s built-in 5MP Macro Cam shoots with clarity and quality helping you bring out the ultra-fine details of your close-up shots. The Slow- mo Selfie feature on the Galaxy A71 lets you capture all kinds of stunning slow motion selfies with its 32MP front camera. So, what’s stopping you from becoming the next big thing on social media? It could be your existing smartphone. Switch to the new and powerful Samsung Galaxy A71 or Galaxy A51 and feel the difference today. The smartphones now come with Samsung’s highly innovative and powerful flagship-grade camera features that can make your social media posts pop, turning you into a celebrity amongst your fans and followers.Buy the Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A71 today! Affiliate links may be automatically generated – see our ethics statement for details.