It is not a stretch to say that there are now billions of smart home devices in use worldwide. The vast majority of American homes feature at least one smart device, and a fair majority have multiple smart devices. Unfortunately, nearly every smart home device has its own security concerns. The only way to alleviate said concerns is to come up with industry standards.
Two William & Mary’s Department of Computer Science professors, Denys Poshyvanyk and Adwait Nadkarni, are fully aware of a lack of security standards and what it means to smart device owners. They have made it their mission to come up with something; they recently won a grant from the National Science Foundation to do just that.
Manufacturers and Proprietary Systems
In a world that seems to be purposely illuminating differences of all types, it might be difficult to understand why the home automation industry lacks standards. Look no further than manufacturers and their desire to maintain proprietary control. What we are seeing in home automation now is very similar to what we saw during the PC wars of the 1980s and 90s.
Way back then, Microsoft and Apple were competing to see who would dominate the operating system environment. In addition, there were countless hardware manufacturers all trying to claim their piece of the pie. They all developed peripheral ports with so many different configurations that it was tough to find peripherals you could use with your computer.
It turns out that USB was created for that very reason. It was intended to bring a measure of standardization that simplified computers and peripherals from that point forward. USB Is considered a universal standard today.
Discovering Security Flaws
Every proprietary system has its security flaws. Even the most recognized brands like Google and Amazon are not immune. Unfortunately, competing proprietary interests prevent companies from coming together to improve security. That gives hackers an advantage. They can work on discovering security flaws with a certain brand of equipment and know that they are only dealing with that brand itself.
Poshyvanyk and Nadkarni see the current state of home automation as a wild west scenario. Different manufacturers, different operating systems, and different security protocols means very little order within the security space. The two professors believe that standardization is the key to changing things. It is hard to argue the point.
Product Integration Concerns
Another concern is product integration. Take a company like Vivint Smart Home. They allow customers to build their own systems from scratch or choose one of several prepacked solutions. Regardless of a customer’s choice, Vivint has purposely built product integration into their business model. All of their smart devices work seamlessly with smart speakers from Google and Amazon.
However, this creates a situation in which Google and Amazon security weaknesses become Vivint security weaknesses. The company has to make sure that none of its devices are vulnerable regardless of the smart speaker a customer might choose. Without standards, maintaining security requires more work. On top of that, staying up to date is an ongoing exercise.
A Unified Front Against Hackers
Coming up with industry standards will present a unified front against hackers. It will also empower the best minds across the entire industry to collaborate on a common goal. Standardization will likely result in much better security protocols that should be more effective at keeping hackers at bay.
Proprietary interests have prevented security standards in the home automation sector thus far. But if Poshyvanyk and Nadkarni have their way, things will change in the not-too-distant future. They see security standards as imminent. For more information please visit Xfinity Security System