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Wireless home automation systems can reveal vast amounts of personal information to anyone with a computer

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(NaturalNews) What might sound like a conspiracy theory is quickly evolving into conspiracy reality. Various wireless home automation systems that control domestic lighting, heating and even door locks can be hacked by third parties. Once the data from these home automation systems is breached, hackers can track behavioral patterns, store the information in databases and analyze homeowner habits. Likewise, this sensitive information could be sold for marketing purposes and used for more intrusive investigations.

An IT security team at Saarland University, lead by expert Christoph Sorge, have confirmed that data from these smart appliance home automation systems can be intercepted by tech burglars with something as simple as a handheld tablet and a wireless internet signal. They found that the home automation systems are not safe at all, even when data is transmitted though encrypted systems.

Anyone with a computer and the right hacker know-how could tap into vast amounts of personal information of neighbors, far and wide. They even showed how a data breach could be used to attack the functionality of the home automation system itself.

Hackers can learn about the behavioral patterns of homeowners by intercepting data from home automation systems

These smart home automation systems were designed to save homeowners time and money, from increasing efficiency of heating systems to adjusting lighting levels based on the time of day. Since this kind of data is susceptible to interception, this means that hackers could learn when homeowners are home and when they are away. The information could be used to plan burglaries.

Additional smart appliances include blinds that raise and lower at specific times of the day and plants that can be watered on time every day. Hackers could theoretically learn the best time of day to peep inside one's home, and it wouldn't be too hard to do if the hacker also owned a personal drone mounted with a camera.

"Many of the systems do not provide adequate security against unwanted third-party access and therefore threaten the privacy of the inhabitants," said Sorge, an expert for IT security and data protection.

Even encrypted data can be breached and analyzed

To examine the security risks of these systems, Sorge and his team of researchers took on the mind of a malicious hacker and went to work using a simple mini-PC. The team was able to eavesdrop on two volunteers who had home automation systems in place.

Sorge summed up how easy it was to quietly steal the information: "Non-encrypted systems provide large quantities of data to anyone determined enough to access the data, and the attacker requires no prior knowledge about the system, nor about the user being spied on."

Sorge went on to say: "The data acquired by the attacker can be analysed to extract system commands and status messages, items which reveal a lot about the inhabitants' behaviour and habits. We were able to determine absence times and to identify home ventilation and heating patterns."

After analyzing the information, Sorge and his team began to build profiles on the homeowners they were spying on. He showed how encrypted communication reveals the number of messages exchanged, providing enough information to learn about a homeowner's absence times.

This puts a homeowner's privacy and security at heightened risk. "An attacker with malicious intent could use this sort of information to plan a burglary," said Sorge.

Right now, Sorge is working on ways to make wireless home automation systems more secure by improving data encryption and advancing concealment technologies.

Privacy is important in today's technologically advanced society. Protecting that privacy is not based in paranoia or conspiracy theory, but about awareness, prevention and preservation of one's own liberty. Who wants to be a subject of hackers, whether they are the Peeping Tom neighbor or a federal NSA agent?

Sources for this article include:

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