5 smart devices that are dumb on privacy

Privacy news
4 mins
Thinking woman with thought bubble containing "Internet of Things"

This post was originally published on January 26, 2016.

Anything is possible in the Internet of Things, except maybe privacy.

It’s estimated that by the end of the year nearly 6.4 billion devices will be Internet-enabled. We can turn on the coffee maker, watch the morning news, and even change our home’s temperature from the comfort of our own fingertips.

Almost every item we own today is interconnected. Unfortunately, we’re a society that seems to be unwillingly and unknowingly trading our privacy for comfort.

As the inaugural first post in our monthly Top 5 monthly series, we thought we’d take a deeper look into 5 Internet-enabled gadgets that may potentially expose your privacy.

1. Samsung’s “Smart” Fridge Keeps Your Info Fresh for Hackers

We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s so crazy we had to mention it again.

Samsung’s all-inclusive fridge lets you send texts, update your Facebook status, watch Netflix, and Skype your significant other, all while you look for that half-empty bottle of Sunny D.

Saying Samsung’s smart fridge is convenient wouldn’t do it justice, as this fridge can do practically everything your MacBook does—while keeping your food fresh.

Unfortunately, when Samsung was designing the world’s laziest fridge, they forgot to install a safe lock. Hackers at a Def Con conference last year exposed how painfully easy it was to infiltrate the fridge and gain access to all your personal files through your Google accounts.

Much to the dismay of privacy advocates everywhere, Samsung’s fridge remains unchanged, and the vulnerabilities in the software are still present.

2. Virtual Babysitter Invites Strangers Over While You Sleep


Internet-ready baby monitors sound great in theory: you can listen to your child peacefully cooing without having to lug that ugly two-way radio around. Sadly, most baby monitors are incredibly easy to hack.

You’d have thought that after these scandals surfaced, companies would wise up and add a few failsafes, right? Wrong. When a security firm tested a few popular smart baby monitors earlier this year, 90 percent received a failing grade.

Smart baby monitors are continuing to grow in popularity, but that doesn’t mean they’re any safer.

Make sure you do your research before buying.

3. Smart Thermostats Make Hacking Into Your Home a Breeze


Google Nest’s line of smart thermostats let you change your home’s temperature with your phone or tablet. Pretty cool if it’s an unusually hot day out and you want your home to be nice and cool when you get home. But while smart thermostats sound great in theory, some models have been found to track your home movements and actually record your behavioral patterns, which they then share with Google.

To add insult to injury, they’re also painfully easy to hack. In a security conference last year, experts showed how it was possible to infiltrate a person’s home network just by hacking into their thermostat.

Now here’s the kicker. Because the vulnerabilities are in the hardware itself, there’s no real way to patch a solution. And before you ask, yes: Nest thermostats are still on the market.

Word to the wise: never buy a used smart thermostat.

4. Smart TVs Let Hackers Watch YOU


In the Internet of Things, smart TVs were always an inevitability. And while they make it possible to watch Internet video without an extra device, they leave you exposed to hackers and malicious apps.

As smart TVs grow in popularity (the Consumer Technology Association suggests that by the end of the year more than 50% of US households will own at least one), more apps will be developed. And with more apps rushing to the marketplace, more vulnerabilities will arise.

Unfortunately, very little time is given to protecting these devices, and big-name companies like Vizio have come under fire for tracking your viewing habits, which they then sell to third-party advertisers.

Makes you wonder if the lack of transparency is really worth the convenience.

5. iKettle Spills Your Wi-Fi Passwords

Who would’ve thought turning on a tea kettle would open a gateway to your home’s private network?

A new line of smart kettles helps you save time by giving you the option to turn them on with your smartphone. Craving a hot cup of tea when you get home and don’t want to wait the two minutes for the water to boil? iKettle’s got ya covered.

While having a smart kettle is arguably more convenient, it’s unquestionably more dangerous. Security experts at Pen Test Partners have revealed a ludicrously easy way to hack into iKettle’s network and uncover various Wi-Fi passwords.

The iKettle released a 2.0 version last year. Sadly, the security issues are still present.

It’s safe to assume that if a device is Internet-enabled, it can be hacked. Take proper precautions by updating your software and making sure the privacy settings are always turned on.

Stay safe, friends!


Featured image: Melpomene / Dollar Photo Club
Fridge image: chesky / Dollar Photo Club
Monitor image: Elena / Dollar Photo Club
Thermostat image: chesky / Dollar Photo Club
TV image: Rasulov / Dollar Photo Club 

Kettle image: Sergey Ryzhov / Dollar Photo Club