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Dennis Peacock
01-30-2018, 5:54 PM
I'm educating myself on the smart home devices and I like what many of them can do and do for me. Do any of you have experiences with these devices?

Matt Schrum
01-30-2018, 6:15 PM
I've had a smart/wi-fi thermostat for a few years. I wouldn't pay the $200+ price tag some new ones cost, but for a bit cheaper off of Craigslist, it's nice being able to warm up the house after I'm away for a long weekend before I get home. My father has a detached barn and uses one to turn on the heat as he eats breakfast so it's warm by the time he makes it out there.

I also have a couple of Amazon Echo Dot's-- one in the dining room/kitchen area and one in the shop. For $30 (used or on sale around the holidays), we use them mostly to stream music, check the news in the morning, or get the weather forecast. Especially for the shop and kitchen it's nice to be able to play or change music even if your hands aren't free.

Finally, my home alarm system and camera system aren't "smart" per se, but they are accessible via the web. It's useful to be able to check on things from work or open the garage remotely, etc.

Jim Becker
01-30-2018, 8:36 PM
I haven't taken that plunge yet, Dennis, but will be interested to learn more from this thread.

Paul F Franklin
01-30-2018, 9:26 PM
Love my amazon echo. The list feature (grocery, hardware store, Costco, etc...) timers (Alexa, set a timer for 17 minutes), and music streaming, plus a quick weather or traffic check alone are worth it to me. But I also have it set up to control (so far) the basement lights, including my shop. So when I can't remember if I left the shop lights on, it's simple to tell Alexa to shut them off. I plan to add a high current module so I can control the air compressor in the basement so when I want to use air in the garage (I ran a line out there) I don't have to go downstairs to fire up the compressor. I don't use the compressor that often so I don't leave it turned on.

Jason Roehl
01-31-2018, 6:20 AM
I have a Honeywell wifi thermostat (color touchscreen) at home, and 3 at our church. Wonderful devices, especially the ones at church because I can warm/cool it a couple hours before a non-regular event or meeting. Plus they are set to email me warnings if the temps are out of a range I set.

We also have a security system with a tablet as the main device, so if I need to let someone in from across the country, I can set a temp code (or disarm it), and they can use the codepad on the garage door to get in.

George Bokros
01-31-2018, 7:20 AM
We also have a security system with a tablet as the main device, so if I need to let someone in from across the country, I can set a temp code (or disarm it), and they can use the codepad on the garage door to get in.

You aren't concerned that someone could hack your home WiFi and get in and rob you? This along with house door locks that are controllable remotely I would never have.

Pat Barry
01-31-2018, 7:36 AM
I have two Samsung SmartCams at my cabin, 4 hours north. They do the typical camera things like sore video after motion sensing. They used to hang up and need to be reset but I had to drive the 4 hours 220+ miles to go there. I bought some wi-fi smartplugs (don't recal the brand right now) and they connect to the internet so I can remotely turn them on and off, so now each camera is plugged into a smartplug and I can restart my SmartCams remotely via an app on my phone. The smartplugs were about $15 ea and well worth it. I also have 3 wi-fi temperature sensors from Accurite that I can access via a smartphone app to monitor the indoor and outdoor temperatures at my cabin. Also an older telephone modem controller that is tied to my propane fireplace stove up there. I can call it up and turn it on the day before we head up so the place is nice and toasty when we get there.

Jan Smith
01-31-2018, 7:57 AM
I only have a smart thermostat which came with the new hvac system and I thought I would not use it but I like that I can check if the heating is working when not home but líll doubt that I will get any device that is voice activated since they creep me out.

Jim Becker
01-31-2018, 9:44 AM
You aren't concerned that someone could hack your home WiFi and get in and rob you? This along with house door locks that are controllable remotely I would never have.
Using current high-security protocols and complex passwords makes for a system that's pretty secure from all but expert hackers with heavy-duty computing devices. The average thief doesn't bother with that kind of thing...they break in physically, snatch and grab. Most WiFi "hacks", which are really "cracks", result from folks not configuring their gateway device for the proper level of security and insistence on using less-complex passcodes. Good security also means turning off any carrier "public sharing" mesh capability, such as XFinity WiFi...
-----

Jason, your mention of the thermostats is interesting to me. Not for our house, but for my shop. Trudging out there on a cold morning to raise up the heat setting with only one eye open is getting old... ;) :) :D And now that I have the network extended out there...it's doable!

Shawn Pixley
01-31-2018, 10:04 AM
We have a smart thermostat and just got some Hue lighting. So far, so good.

Bruce Page
01-31-2018, 1:39 PM
This is an interesting thread.
Not smart home related but LOML gave me a WiFi based weather station for Christmas and it's a lot of fun being able to see the inside/outside temps, wind speed, etc. from my phone, anywhere, anytime.

Edwin Santos
01-31-2018, 2:57 PM
I installed a $35 smart wall switch from Amazon during the holidays. It controls an exterior receptacle that we use for Christmas lights. From the smartphone app, I can turn the receptacle/lights on and off and set up as complex a timer program as I like, including on/off times tied to sunrise and sunset. It's really cool and makes the old appliance dial type timers look primitive. And the wall switch works manually on the wall just like the old one, so think of all the smart phone functionality as being "in addition to" not in place of.

Dennis Peacock
01-31-2018, 4:14 PM
I am considering a smart thermostat, like the Nest or Ecobee4 plus adding an Amazon Echo to the bedroom to replace a broken alarm clock.

Rich Engelhardt
01-31-2018, 4:32 PM
Does my wife count?

Any time my fat old lazy butt wants something I just yell for her.

Edwin Santos
01-31-2018, 5:18 PM
Does my wife count?

Any time my fat old lazy butt wants something I just yell for her.

Is her name Alexa?

Travis Porter
01-31-2018, 5:51 PM
I have an iSmartAlarm system that is connected to my home network. It uses proprietary contact closures and such, but it is fully controllable from my phone/tablet, etc. Tge sirens on it are pretty whimpy, so I have added some additional high output sirens. It also has 110V smart plugs. I have several of these wired into single phase and three phase contactors to turn my phase convertor and air compressor on and off.

I have the Sonos speaker system to play music, and although expensive, it is an awesome set up.

I have high definition security cameras (Gigabit POE) that are configured to communicate and store back to my Synology network server. The Synology is a multi function device allowing me to remotely access my pictures, surveillance, files, etc. It is a pretty cool device for automatically backing up photos from my phone, computers, etc.

I also have my garage door set up on its own proprietary app/set up. I can remotely open and close the garage door and tell if it is opened or closed. Although I like the capability, I think it is the pits that is a totally separate application/functionality that has no integration with any of my other stuff......


I have two google chromecasts to broadcast to my non smart TV's.

I also have a PLEX TV/Movie server. I have a large collection of movies, and I have them available for viewing on this server and it also allows me to download them to my phone or tablet in a compressed form when I want to watch them remotely when traveling.

For all of this stuff, the integration between apps/programs/etc is the pits. There is no common standard that I can tell as of yet. Everything you add or do has some kind of integration issues or compatibility..... I wish there was a commonly adopted standard so integration and an application front end could be common....

Rich Riddle
01-31-2018, 10:57 PM
We have the Nest thermostat and a Smart Chamberlain Garage Door Opener. I like being able to look at the thermostat on the phone. When we were in Europe, we could lower the thermostat and monitor usage. I left the garage door open one day and was able to close it via the phone.

Matt Marsh
02-01-2018, 5:57 AM
I started installing X-10, and X-10 Pro stuff many many years ago, and over the past five to ten years, gradually transitioning to Insteon devices. All my outdoor lighting, and several indoor lights are controlled by one or the other. I also have Insteon cameras around the place. It is all meshed together with the Insteon Hub. I also have Honeywell WiFi thermostats in both my house and my shop. My water heater is also online. About three months ago, I installed a SimpliSafe security system throughout.

Jason Roehl
02-01-2018, 6:34 AM
You aren't concerned that someone could hack your home WiFi and get in and rob you? This along with house door locks that are controllable remotely I would never have.

The tablet is proprietary (I won't say which system publicly). So to hack in, someone would have to hack my app's password (fairly strong), but that would only work after they knew it even existed, as there is no indication our home has a security system. I don't put the signs/stickers up, just in case there gets to be a known vulnerability in a particular brand of system. Not to mention, there are additional layers of, um, "security", if you get my drift.

Jason Roehl
02-01-2018, 6:38 AM
Jason, your mention of the thermostats is interesting to me. Not for our house, but for my shop. Trudging out there on a cold morning to raise up the heat setting with only one eye open is getting old... ;) :) :D And now that I have the network extended out there...it's doable!

The three we have at our church are these:

https://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-Programmable-Thermostat-RTH6580WF-Requires/dp/B00Y6M2OUC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1517484909&sr=8-2&keywords=honeywell+wifi+thermostat

I have a similar one to this at home:

https://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-RTH9580WF-Programmable-Thermostat-Amazon/dp/B00FLZEQH2/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1517484909&sr=8-3&keywords=honeywell+wifi+thermostat

The second one does have the nice additional feature of another option for the furnace fan: circulate. It basically runs it something like 20 minutes out of every hour (not all at once) to circulate the air in your house. With a good filter system, I think it helps keep the house cleaner and aids in allergy relief.

Jim Becker
02-01-2018, 10:21 AM
Jason, I was actually just looking at that first (simpler) one yesterday on Amazon when the topic raised my thoughts. It's a reasonable price and should be plug and play, outside of the required additional power supply (C-wire), with the basic Honeywell I have wired into my Farenheat warm-air-maker via a control interface. I suspect it would work with a future upgrade to a mini-split, too. I really don't need this capability in our actual house...the two thermostats stay at the same temperature full time since there's rarely a time when nobody is home and reducing temps isn't good for our birds.

Harry Hagan
02-01-2018, 12:19 PM
Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm



378003We installed this unit throughout the house recently. Pricey, but a big improvement over the old technology.

Jim Koepke
02-01-2018, 2:32 PM
Maybe my fears are unfounded, but it seems many of today's smart home devices have minimal security. What is even more concerning is the folks who use these will likely be the same folks who used to have a VCR that always flashed 12:00 or an answering machine with the default settings.

Many of these "smart devices" are likely easy to hack and can be used to track their users. Some can be used for other nefarious purposes on the internet of everything.

Maybe if one of those smart devices could fire up the wood stove or load the dishwasher my view would change on the matter.

Having one of those devices that responds to my voice on the living room coffee table isn't going to happen. Who is to say it can't hear everything else that is said within range?

On a lighter note, here is another view on "smart devices:"

http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2018/02/01

The movie Kingsman also has a jab at what the nefarious can do with total control of our devices.

jtk

Malcolm McLeod
02-01-2018, 2:49 PM
... it seems many of today's smart home devices have minimal security.
...

I work for a company that is perhaps in the top 10 of worldwide hacking targets. Our IT Security folks have a VERY healthy disdain for the security features in many of these devices (including non-encrypted admin/recovery credentials:eek:). The hack-able 'surface area' of the average home is exploding.

...And just why do you need a Chinese-built clothes iron with a CPU, big RAM, and Bluetooth?:cool: Auto OFF has been available for ages w/o internet. ...err, Oh! Wait!! Now I can turn it ON before I get home - it'll be toasty warm on arrival.:D

Be vewy, vewy carewful out therew! :o

Ole Anderson
02-01-2018, 3:17 PM
I have an Xfinity security system with one outdoor camera, a thermostat and door/motion sensors. The thermostat is the most useful. I just added a Sensi WiFi thermostat at church. Very good, recommended by my son and HVAC guy, $100 at ACE hardware. Don't blow your money on a Nest.

Matt Meiser
02-01-2018, 8:48 PM
I have about 15 Insteon devices. Started as a way to control lights that are on 3 different circuits in our living room but added outdoor lighting and some indoor lighting, leak detection, and working on some generator monitoring. The Insteon hubs have been junk but I just got an ISY controller that seems to be a lot more powerful.

Barry McFadden
02-01-2018, 9:14 PM
Maybe I'm too Old School...but...I have a totally smart controlled home....I turn the lights on and off.. I set the temperature.... I lock the doors...I turn on the radio or tv if I want to...and the list goes on.... by the way...I can't stand the commercial that has the somewhat limited intelligence lady looking out the window at the snowstorm and says "Alexa...what's the weather" and gets the reply "it's snowing"... wow .. that's handy to have!!!

Rich Engelhardt
02-02-2018, 3:59 AM
Good timing for this thread.....

I just got this (https://www.dewalt.com/en-us/jobsite-solutions/tool-connect?utm_source=SFMC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DW%20-%20TC_InventoryManager#TCVideo)- in my email.

I can see where it could have some use.

Jason Roehl
02-02-2018, 6:19 AM
Jason, I was actually just looking at that first (simpler) one yesterday on Amazon when the topic raised my thoughts. It's a reasonable price and should be plug and play, outside of the required additional power supply (C-wire), with the basic Honeywell I have wired into my Farenheat warm-air-maker via a control interface. I suspect it would work with a future upgrade to a mini-split, too. I really don't need this capability in our actual house...the two thermostats stay at the same temperature full time since there's rarely a time when nobody is home and reducing temps isn't good for our birds.

Depending on how yours is wired, the additional C wire may be easy. I think that on all 4 that I did, the wire was already in the wall, just cut back a bit. On the furnace end, the C wire doesn't actually go to power, it actually needs to go to ground on a 24V system. Since there were already some wires grounded, all I had to do was add the C (blue) wire into a bundle that had a wire nut on it already.

Pat Barry
02-02-2018, 7:21 AM
Maybe my fears are unfounded, but it seems many of today's smart home devices have minimal security. What is even more concerning is the folks who use these will likely be the same folks who used to have a VCR that always flashed 12:00 or an answering machine with the default settings.

Many of these "smart devices" are likely easy to hack and can be used to track their users. Some can be used for other nefarious purposes on the internet of everything.

Maybe if one of those smart devices could fire up the wood stove or load the dishwasher my view would change on the matter.

Having one of those devices that responds to my voice on the living room coffee table isn't going to happen. Who is to say it can't hear everything else that is said within range?

On a lighter note, here is another view on "smart devices:"

http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2018/02/01

The movie Kingsman also has a jab at what the nefarious can do with total control of our devices.

jtk
I had to laugh at my BIL who had a similar concern / fear and proceeded to give away his Alexa based on a couple of you tube video's. The thought that the government or some crook was trying to listen to what he was saying/listening to/watching in his own home had me perplexed. Yes Alexa hears all.

Mike Cutler
02-02-2018, 7:56 AM
The only advertised "smart device" I have is an LG Screen. I turned off all of the smart features I could, and it is just controlled via the Bose unit. I never connected the Bose WiFi capabilities. It runs off the IR remote it came with.

I'm not a fan of the "Smart Home" concept.

As an aside, I have a coworker with a very computer "adept" son. His son used to hack the home networks along the school bus route with his iPad just for fun. He wasn't doing anything malicious, he just did it for fun and as a challenge to see if he could. He also hacked some of the business networks along the route. He was an elementary/Jr. high school student at the time.
He was successful enough that the "authorities" were at his door one day.

Jim Becker
02-02-2018, 9:13 AM
Depending on how yours is wired, the additional C wire may be easy. I think that on all 4 that I did, the wire was already in the wall, just cut back a bit. On the furnace end, the C wire doesn't actually go to power, it actually needs to go to ground on a 24V system. Since there were already some wires grounded, all I had to do was add the C (blue) wire into a bundle that had a wire nut on it already.

The wire in my shop is surface mounted...not in the wall. :) On the same page as the thermostat in Amazon, there's an entry for the C-wire adapter. For an additional charge, of course. :)

Art Mann
02-02-2018, 3:33 PM
My whole work life has been spent in high technology and, naturally, I am incorporating several WiFi based home automation features into my new house. However, I will never own a device that uses voice recognition and an internet connection. This includes items such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home. That just opens up too much of an opportunity for Google, Amazon, or the government for that matter, to eavesdrop on my private conversations. As far as WiFi security goes, it is almost impossible for the average criminal to compromise a home WiFi network if the recommended security measures are followed. I am more afraid of someone using a sledge hammer to break in to my house than a burglar using highly sophisticated techniques to compromise my smart front door lock.

Alan Caro
02-03-2018, 10:13 AM
Dennis Peacock,

A little learning is a dangerous thing, and I've made the mistake of skimming a lot of technology journals regarding AI and smart devices. The problem with my survey technique is that so often the feature that jumps out of the articles and papers are the ways by which every new technology is used against the users for commercial or criminal purpose. Notice how many more robo calls are coming over the phone despite do not call, nomorobo, and blockers? Last week, I noticed my main computer system was running strangely. When I opened the CPU activity monitor, I saw that all 16 threads were running simultaneously at nearly 100% and the GPU was at 62C- as hot as it gets. Those are conditions of maximum computer usage similar to running a very large, complex rendering. when I started a diagnostic program, all the parameters returned to idle. A little research revealed that this was a signal that my computer had been hijacked to min cryptocurrency. The crytocurrency frenzy has meant that hackers are finding idling devices and using them to mine cryptocurrency and this includes smartphones- anything with a processor. Remember the articles about surveillance hacking of Samsung smart TV's ? :

https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2017/03/07/cia-wikileaks-samsung-smart-tv-hack-security/#69bde17f4bcd

Keep in mind that anything that happens over the Internet might be seen, recorded, manipulated, and/or stolen. There was a robbery of nearly $500,000,000 of Bitcoins a week or so ago- untraceable ATM machines were hacked to spew 20's all over the ground. If ATMS' can be hacked, so can your computers, smart phone, refrigerator, and soon, your self-driving car. If the system running your CNC is Internet connected, it may be possible for someone to download the files for your business or duplicate proprietary designs.

In response, I have a Samsung Galaxy 4 probably permanently in the drawer and instead I'm using a $30, old-fashioned flip phone that is only on when I'm in the car and has the GPS turned off. I have a 1080p internet camera/ mic for Skype, but when not used it is unplugged as these can be turned on- sound and picture transmitted without the on light showing. I do have a Samsung Smart TV, but it is a recent one that cured the hacking potential, plus there is no cable connection and it is not directly connected to the internet, it runs through a computer. I use a VPN- a virtual private network, and run anti-virus and anti-malware programs at least twice a week. Instead of Google I use DuckDuckGo, a web search engine that does not keep any records.

I'm not a paranoid, conspiracy theorist; it's not necessary as the conspiracies and events are reality. A friend of mine in Switzerland spent $2,500 in one year on computer virus repair. It's not feasible to live without devices without processors and Internet connections but until the security situation improves significantly, my idea is to stay as invisible to hackers as possible. If I need to know whether I need milk, I'll open the refrigerator door and the dishwasher can be switched on at lights out by pressing "Start".

Alan

PS: If you disagree, please send me your PIN number and I'll check the security free of charge.

Edwin Santos
02-03-2018, 11:05 AM
Dennis Peacock,

A little learning is a dangerous thing, and I've made the mistake of skimming a lot of technology journals regarding AI and smart devices. The problem with my survey technique is that so often the feature that jumps out of the articles and papers are the ways by which every new technology is used against the users for commercial or criminal purpose. Notice how many more robo calls are coming over the phone despite do not call, nomorobo, and blockers? Last week, I noticed my main computer system was running strangely. When I opened the CPU activity monitor, I saw that all 16 threads were running simultaneously at nearly 100% and the GPU was at 62C- as hot as it gets. Those are conditions of maximum computer usage similar to running a very large, complex rendering. when I started a diagnostic program, all the parameters returned to idle. A little research revealed that this was a signal that my computer had been hijacked to min cryptocurrency. The crytocurrency frenzy has meant that hackers are finding idling devices and using them to mine cryptocurrency and this includes smartphones- anything with a processor. Remember the articles about surveillance hacking of Samsung smart TV's ? :

https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2017/03/07/cia-wikileaks-samsung-smart-tv-hack-security/#69bde17f4bcd

Keep in mind that anything that happens over the Internet might be seen, recorded, manipulated, and/or stolen. There was a robbery of nearly $500,000,000 of Bitcoins a week or so ago- untraceable ATM machines were hacked to spew 20's all over the ground. If ATMS' can be hacked, so can your computers, smart phone, refrigerator, and soon, your self-driving car. If the system running your CNC is Internet connected, it may be possible for someone to download the files for your business or duplicate proprietary designs.

In response, I have a Samsung Galaxy 4 probably permanently in the drawer and instead I'm using a $30, old-fashioned flip phone that is only on when I'm in the car and has the GPS turned off. I have a 1080p internet camera/ mic for Skype, but when not used it is unplugged as these can be turned on- sound and picture transmitted without the on light showing. I do have a Samsung Smart TV, but it is a recent one that cured the hacking potential, plus there is no cable connection and it is not directly connected to the internet, it runs through a computer. I use a VPN- a virtual private network, and run anti-virus and anti-malware programs at least twice a week. Instead of Google I use DuckDuckGo, a web search engine that does not keep any records.

I'm not a paranoid, conspiracy theorist; it's not necessary as the conspiracies and events are reality. A friend of mine in Switzerland spent $2,500 in one year on computer virus repair. It's not feasible to live without devices without processors and Internet connections but until the security situation improves significantly, my idea is to stay as invisible to hackers as possible. If I need to know whether I need milk, I'll open the refrigerator door and the dishwasher can be switched on at lights out by pressing "Start".

Alan

PS: If you disagree, please send me your PIN number and I'll check the security free of charge.

Alan,
I don't disagree, so no offense if I don't offer up my PIN number. Seriously though, your post is unsettling. So here's my question- I realize that any internet connected device can be hacked. However, I'd love some advice from those knowledgeable about whether there are software or even hardware solutions that would make it far less likely. I don't see this as a binary type of thing where either you are totally exposed, or you are disconnected living in a cave beyond hacking. After all as you point out, it's not feasible to live without devices and internet connectivity for most of us.

So just like the average street where one house has good lighting, deadbolts, a dog in the yard, other deterrents, and another house does not, the thieves will always go for the easier target. So what basic solutions could an average person implement that would take them out of the low hanging fruit category?

At my old company we used a hardware appliance called Sonicwall that supposedly made us safer, maybe not hackproof, but more hack resistant that the guy next door that had nothing other than basic Windows network security features. Are there any fans of something similar aimed at the home user?

Thanks,
Edwin

Jim Becker
02-03-2018, 2:17 PM
Edwin, nothing is foolproof when it comes to security, whether it's a home-based environment, a large corporation or a government. While it's certainly easy to dismiss new technology based on that risk, it's also an opportunity to do the best we can to make it work as securely as possible. So if we individually follow the best practices to secure at the edge (the gateway between our service provider and our home/business networks and follow other security best practices, such as complex passwords, staying current with OS and application revisions, etc., we at least minimize the security risk as best as we can do so. So many of the security breaches we read about are because someone didn't take the care required to follow best practices...a smaller percentage is because of actual security flaws. Passwords are likely the biggest failure point because folks are afraid of not being able to remember a complex password. One good way around that is to take an easy to remember phrase and turn that into a password using the first letter of each word (or some other regular letter in each word) with varied capitalization and substitution of non-letter characters and numbers where that can happen.

To your specific question, many of the features that were in the Sonicwall firewall appliance you describe are available and sometimes default in good quality gateways (routers) used for Internet access. And yes, there are dedicated appliances available for home or small business use, but many folks are not willing to invest in that extra expense and the sometimes interfere with how a service provider provides content. By example, for Verizon's FiOS that I have, TV subscribers that want to use certain mobile device access capabilities are required to have the VZ provided gateway as the primary interface between the service and the home network. That precludes using any third party gateway device including a security appliance at the point it actually needs to be used to provide the benefits it brings. IE...it's complicated. :)

Alan Caro
02-04-2018, 8:58 AM
Edwin Santos,

Jim Becker makes some very good points.

As careful as I might be in trying to avoid robo calls, viruses, malware, phishing, spam, promotional emails, ransomware, the pressure of intrusion is constant.

But, I'm small fry as compared to the scale of these attacks on institutions and businesses. I worked on a little project for a local research facility and their array of paralleled processing systems is impressive:

378225

But, occupying about the same space and with about the same number of devices, is the facility's firewall. This monitors/protects the several very high capacity connections, running a special software and linked to the maker's facility. This is very expensive. The administrator told me their ordinary day includes well over 1,000 attempts to get into their system.

Of course, the average computer user doesn't need that scale of protection, but unfortunately, the need for vigilance needs to be constant. This is because every move to counter attacks needs a new counter measure and then the hackers study a way around that. There are also constantly new devices and those are quickly attacked. One of the worrying frontiers in that respect are self-driving cars. Have a look at this from 2015:

https://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-highway

And that is three years ago and running only very standard connectivity. Of course, with many modern cars, it's possible to know where you are whenever it's running. Cell phones too. When self-driving cars arrive in four years or so, think of the potential disasters.

Here are some ideas for internet security and privacy

1. VPN: I use the Internet quite a bit, and I've found that the greatest protection is the use of a Virtual Private Network- VPN. These, in effect, create a special link to a remote server such that you computer's IP - it's location, appears to be the location of that server. the communications between your computer and the remote server is characterized as running in a "tunnel protocol", and very often has the option to be encrypted. You can sign on to a server anywhere in the world and any outsider can only see that you are connected to that server. If you checked, my computer could appear to be in New Jersey or France. Two good VPNs are NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA).

2. Tor Browser: Using Tor Browser is very strong. It's a version of Mozilla Firefox that has no tracking, is encrypted, and does not record your internet activity in any way. The search engine is DuckDuckGo, which also doesn't track and does not tailor the search results to the user: that is, put the paid ones first. If you use an ordinary browser, adjust the settings for tracking protection and that the browser removes all history every time it closes. Day to day, I use Firefox with DuckDuckGo the default search engine. I assume that anything Google- Chrome, Gmail, and Google search will record every keystroke and store it forever.

3. Virus scanning: there are a lot of these and even some free versions can be quite good, but I use a high level paid service.

4. Protection of the system OS and files: I keep a hard drive in a USB enclosure that is run only to backup files. this isolates it from a computer virus /malware. One partition contains all my files , frequently updated. Another partition has an exact copy of the C: drive. If my hard drive failed, or had a virus, I can format the new C: partition, migrate the system image, restore the files in less than two hours.

5. Malware protection: Malware seems to be more common now than viruses as malware has a commercial dimension: gather personal information, redirect the browser, see files, and so on. Ransomware is a recent one in which the hacker encrypts all your files and then wants money for the encryption key. We had a situation in California in which this happened to a hospital - an act of terrorism in my view- and I think it cost them $100,000 plus to recover. Malwarebytes https://www.malwarebytes.com has a free version, which is quite strong but if your system is used commercially, have the paid, premium version which monitors in real time- not only when scanned. I run this twice a week.

6. Adblockers: I have not watched network television for more than 20 years and today have a physical reaction to TV advertising. The internet is packed with ads of course, but I use the free Adblock Plus with Firefox and I never see ads. I'm looking into AdGuard, a [aid application, which combines more robust protection against advertising, malware, and tracking.

7. Robo calls: I am on the Do Not Call Registry, run NoMoRobo, have 50 blocked numbers, and therefore "only" have 3-5 unwanted calls per day.

8. Smart TV's: The more I look into smart TV's, the more I'm convinced the TV is watching me as much or more than I watch it.

These may seem like extreme measures, but I still have intrusions and of course, I don't know what I don't know. Privacy is impossible in the face of the combined efforts of modern commercial, governmental, and criminal interests.


Alan

George Bokros
02-04-2018, 9:21 AM
I have three televisions in my home. All three WERE on my home WiFi network. The newest one in our master bedroom turned on by itself at 4:00 a.m. one day, how did that happen??? I removed that one from my WiFi. Since I removed it from my WiFi network it has never turned on by itself again. No other device in my home including a computer that is on all the time and the other two televisions have ever had an issue with intrusion. Puzzling to me!!

How did this television turn itself on and never happen again after removing it from my WiFi?

Jim Becker
02-04-2018, 9:56 AM
George, smart TVs tend to do software updates on a regular basis just like the computer you're using to access this forum. They "shouldn't turn on" visibly for this process, but sometimes it happens. Since it now has no network connection, it's not going to behave the same. That's both good and bad, but good outweighs bad since without a connection, it's "totally secure" from any outside influence.

Alan Caro
02-04-2018, 10:06 AM
George Bokros,

Just to eliminate the easiest explanation: is there any chance that the remote control ended up on the bed somewhere? I heard about a fellow in California whose cat a couple of times walked on the remote at 3-4AM, I think to try and watch documentaries about mice,fish, and interesting projects using string.

Otherwise, is your TV by chance a Samsung?

https://mashable.com/2013/08/02/samsung-smart-tv-hack/#3MdquZXWGkqQ

Alan

Charlie Velasquez
02-04-2018, 11:34 AM
we are in the process of transitioning to a house that is six years old. My son loves smart devices and is retro-fitting much of the house with smart devices.
ecobee stats, smart lights, sound system, not sure what else. Haven't made the final move yet, so I don't know how it will work out.
But, his house is pretty smart.

He has his ecobee programmed, but if there are changes to his schedule he can access his hvac with his android phone. It coordinates his whole house humidifier and such. It tells him when the filters are starting to run less efficiently.

From his office he has opened his garage door for a furniture delivery, then closed it again when the delivery guys left. Prior to the delivery he moved one of his security cameras to the garage and watched the delivery being made.

In his theater room he tells the projector to turn on and then tells the lights what percent to dim. He adjusts the volume of video or music by voice and can tell it which rooms to send the sound to.

He has a couple of dogs that shed... a lot. He runs his Roombas a couple of hours before getting home.

Once he sits down after dinner, he really doesn't have to get up much....

I have not talked with him about the dangers, but I assume he is well aware of them; he works in the internet/network security business, installing and maintaining secure networks for a bank.

Paul F Franklin
02-04-2018, 12:10 PM
IMO, there are a few fairly simple and inexpensive steps one can take to improve their odds against the bad guys.

1. Pay money for a decent VPN vendor and use the VPN. (The free services, for the most part, are not worth using.) It does slow down browsing a bit but if you pick a good vendor, it's rarely noticeable. When you first set it up, you will get some security flags when you log in to, say your bank, because they don't recognize your computer since it's hidden behind the VPN, but this is a one time thing. Ideally, you can configure your router (if you have one) to connect via the VPN and that way every device connected to your network will automatically be behind the VPN.

2. Whatever account you log into your computer regularly should not have administrator rights, but should just be a regular user account. You won't be able to install software or make some system changes without supplying your administrator password, but it makes it harder for the bad guys to install malware on your machine or access it in other ways.

3. Use a password manager to make it easy to use good passwords and easy to change them often. Even better, if you have a fingerprint scanner on your laptop or add one to your desktop, you can tie the password manager to the fingerprint scanner and log in to any of your accounts with a swipe of your finger.

4. Of course, use good antivirus software and good anti-malware software.

5. Set your wireless router, if you have one, to not broadcast your SSID. That means you will have to know the name of your network to login to it, but it makes it harder for casual bad guys to see your wireless.

6. Turn on two factor authentication for every online account that supports it, like banks and credit cards, paypal, etc. When you attempt to log in, they will text you a security code that you enter as a second password. Adds a strong extra layer of security.

7. Set up alerts on all your credit cards that will text you if there are a) foreign transactions or b)transaction exceeding $xx.

George Bokros
02-04-2018, 5:25 PM
George Bokros,

Just to eliminate the easiest explanation: is there any chance that the remote control ended up on the bed somewhere? I heard about a fellow in California whose cat a couple of times walked on the remote at 3-4AM, I think to try and watch documentaries about mice,fish, and interesting projects using string.

Otherwise, is your TV by chance a Samsung?

https://mashable.com/2013/08/02/samsung-smart-tv-hack/#3MdquZXWGkqQ

Alan

Yes it and one of the other ones is a Samsung. No the remote was on top of the TV cabinet and we do not have a cat.

Edwin Santos
02-04-2018, 6:07 PM
IMO, there are a few fairly simple and inexpensive steps one can take to improve their odds against the bad guys.

......

Hello Paul,
Thank you! This was the kind of feedback I was seeking. Much appreciated,

paul cottingham
02-05-2018, 12:04 AM
Its not foolproof, but you can't get on my wireless without the MAC adress of the device being registered with my wireless router. Works pretty well. I also turn off SSID broadcasts.

Pat Barry
02-05-2018, 8:09 AM
George Bokros,

Just to eliminate the easiest explanation: is there any chance that the remote control ended up on the bed somewhere? I heard about a fellow in California whose cat a couple of times walked on the remote at 3-4AM, I think to try and watch documentaries about mice,fish, and interesting projects using string.

Otherwise, is your TV by chance a Samsung?

https://mashable.com/2013/08/02/samsung-smart-tv-hack/#3MdquZXWGkqQ

Alan
It's likely something simple. Cat, dog, laying on the bed and rollover / push buttons, maybe your TV has a wakeup timer, etc. If it was due to outside agent like a hacker then you have much bigger problems than a TV turning itself on.

Dennis Peacock
02-05-2018, 3:09 PM
An update -
I have decided to get the Nest 3rd Gen Learning Thermostat, add another Echo Dot, and the Philips HUE Lighting starter kit. The Echo Dot I initially purchased has proven so helpful to me and the entire family that I've ordered another one. In a way, nice tools added to my home for me and the family.

George Bokros
02-05-2018, 3:32 PM
It's likely something simple. Cat, dog, laying on the bed and rollover / push buttons, maybe your TV has a wakeup timer, etc. If it was due to outside agent like a hacker then you have much bigger problems than a TV turning itself on.

See my earlier post, #43 in this thread

Michael Alu
02-05-2018, 4:19 PM
I started to take the dive into home automation. Right now I have two Logitech Harmony hubs, one for the living room and one for the master bedroom. These allow me to pair all devices for entertainment to my iPhone as well as my Echo Dots. I can control my tvs with voice commands now. I also have a smart thermostat paired to my phone and echo as well. Next up will be lighting.

Pat Barry
02-05-2018, 7:16 PM
As I said in post #43 the remote was on the TV cabinet and we do not have a cat that could have climbed onto the cabinet. The TV does not have a turn on timer only a turn off timer. No other device including the computer that is on 24/7 has been bothered. Since I took it off the WiFi it has not done it again and it has never done in during the day.
Is it possible someone is a sleepwalker? they can do some crazy things - turning on a TV might be the least.

Note: last night during the super bowl, they came back from commercial and my announcers were Spanish. Not sure how that happened. The TV itself isn't on wifi but the chromecast device is. Could something cause that similar to your tv turning itself on? I had to shut it off and turn it back on with the remote for it to go back to Al and Chris.

George Bokros
02-05-2018, 7:31 PM
Is it possible someone is a sleepwalker? they can do some crazy things - turning on a TV might be the least.

Neither my wife nor I are sleepwalkers.

Charlie Velasquez
02-06-2018, 11:44 PM
I have three televisions in my home. All three WERE on my home WiFi network. The newest one in our master bedroom turned on by itself at 4:00 a.m. one day, how did that happen??? I removed that one from my WiFi. Since I removed it from my WiFi network it has never turned on by itself again. No other device in my home including a computer that is on all the time and the other two televisions have ever had an issue with intrusion. Puzzling to me!!

How did this television turn itself on and never happen again after removing it from my WiFi?
Since it was at 4:00 am, and stopped after disconnecting from netwwork it was probably a "smart" factory programmed update.

We had some ghosts also.
We would do a system shutdown of all our video and components then leave that part of our house, only to hear the Toshiba TV a few minutes later. We would turn it off, it would come back on... off-on.....

It was maybe my wife's phone,...... we think. We had enabled the HDMI-CEC (HDMI-CEC”, short for HDMI Consumer Electronics Control, is an HDMI feature many TVs and peripherals have. Source -https://www.howtogeek.com/207186/how-to-enable-hdmi-cec-on-your-tv-and-why-you-should/).

She had a TV remote app and we have a Amazon Fire Stick in the TV. One of them was turning it back on. We disabled CEC. She can no longer use her phone as a TV remote and the fire stick can no longer switch inputs, we have to use the TV factory remote for those functions; but, it stays off when we turn it off.

Art Mann
02-07-2018, 10:46 AM
Don't be surprised if you and your wife are sitting around talking about buying a new couch and then start getting pop up ads on the internet from furniture stores. :D (Its a joke)


An update -
I have decided to get the Nest 3rd Gen Learning Thermostat, add another Echo Dot, and the Philips HUE Lighting starter kit. The Echo Dot I initially purchased has proven so helpful to me and the entire family that I've ordered another one. In a way, nice tools added to my home for me and the family.

Bruce Page
02-07-2018, 10:53 AM
Don't be surprised if you and your wife are sitting around talking about buying a new couch and then start getting pop up ads on the internet from furniture stores. :D (Its a joke)

Probably just a matter of time..

Brian W Evans
02-07-2018, 2:45 PM
Lots of good information here. One thing I didn't see mentioned is that all of these devices connect to the company servers in order to store and analyze data. This means that information about your smart devices - the settings, usage information, metadata such as time/date/location/connection method/IP addresses/etc. are stored and probably analyzed in some way by the company. Advertisers would love to have this information and are willing to pay for it. Do you believe that a company wouldn't be tempted to sell information about when you're home and when you're not, or your cooling/heating/lighting/music/tv preferences to advertisers? Or that Amazon, Google, Apple, etc. are so interested in putting listening/watching devices in your home just to sell you soap and music downloads? It's not necessarily the government or hackers who might use the devices to listen in - it's the companies themselves. Like smartphones, these devices are designed from the ground up to gather information about you which can be analyzed and sold (and subpoenaed by the government and stolen by hackers). That's where the money is. The devices are loss-leaders in many cases.

This is especially true for devices that allow remote connections (e.g. from your smartphone). The connection to the device is not direct, as you might assume, but rather goes through the company's servers and gives the company access to a whole range of new information (your device's various identifying characteristics, its location, etc.). I think this is especially problematic for home security services since a hacker could have easy access to the status of your security system and your location (e.g. you're not home and won't be anytime soon because you're at Disneyworld). Remember that the company's firewalls or other security measures won't do any good if your phone is compromised. Based on what many said above, people have way too much faith in firewalls, malware protection, and other security measures.

One partial solution, if you want some semblance of a smart home, is to host your own server. Travis mentioned a company called Synology that sells devices that allow this cheaply(ish) and easily. It's not exactly plug-n-play but it's about as simple as it can be. QNAP is another company that makes a similar product, and I'm sure there must be more as well. Synology has mobile apps that connect directly to your device - no intermediary - allowing you to connect cameras and other devices and manage them remotely. You can also replicate many of the services you get for "free" from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. like email, cloud file storage, calendar, music/photo/video library, VPN, etc. The difference is you control access and these companies aren't scanning your private information for things they can sell. You also decide whether or not your smart devices have access to the internet and, therefore, whether they can send information back to their manufacturer. (BTW I don't have any affiliation with these companies or any other technology companies)

I know that this sounds paranoid but read the terms of service for any of these devices or services and see if you really agree to what's in them. You should also find a source of information you trust and read up on privacy issues. I really like the following two sources, but there are many others:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (https://www.eff.org/issues/privacy)
Krebs on Security (https://krebsonsecurity.com/)

I know many people who don't care if their information is sold, which is fine. My thing is: know what you're getting into before giving access to your home.

Edit: added a couple of sentences for clarity.

Pat Barry
02-07-2018, 2:56 PM
Lots of good information here. One thing I didn't see mentioned is that all of these devices connect to the company servers in order to store and analyze data. This means that information about your smart devices - the settings, usage information, metadata such as time/date/location/connection method/IP addresses/etc. are stored and probably analyzed in some way by the company. Advertisers would love to have this information and are willing to pay for it. Do you believe that a company wouldn't be tempted to sell information about when you're home and when you're not, or your cooling/heating/lighting/music/tv preferences to advertisers? Or that Amazon, Google, Apple, etc. are so interested in putting listening/watching devices in your home at ridiculously low prices because they make money on the devices? It's not necessarily the government or hackers who might use the devices to listen in - it's the companies themselves. Like smartphones, these devices are designed from the ground up to gather information about you which can be analyzed and sold (and subpoenaed by the government and stolen by hackers). That's where the money is. The devices are loss-leaders in many cases.

One solution, if you want some semblance of a smart home, is to host your own server. Travis mentioned a company called Synology that sells devices that allow this cheaply(ish) and easily. It's not exactly plug-n-play but it's about as simple as it can be. QNAP is another company that makes a similar product, and I'm sure there must be more as well. Synology has mobile apps that connect directly to your device - no intermediary - allowing you to connect cameras and other devices and manage them remotely. You can also replicate many of the services you get for "free" from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. like email, cloud file storage, calendar, music/photo/video library, VPN, etc. The difference is you control access and these companies aren't scanning your private information for things they can sell. (BTW I don't have any affiliation with these companies or any other technology companies)

I know that this sounds paranoid but read the terms of service for any of these devices or services and see if you really agree to what's in them. You should also find a source of information you trust and read up on privacy issues. I really like the following two sources, but there are many others:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (https://www.eff.org/issues/privacy)
Krebs on Security (https://krebsonsecurity.com/)

I know many people who don't care if their information is sold, which is fine. My thing is: know what you're getting into before giving access to your home.
I agreed to whatever the terms of service were. If there was a problem with the terms some bunch of lawyers would have been all over it long ago. I feel in the safety of the masses.

Brian W Evans
02-07-2018, 3:08 PM
I agreed to whatever the terms of service were. If there was a problem with the terms some bunch of lawyers would have been all over it long ago. I feel in the safety of the masses.

Many people simply don't care if these companies collect all of this information. There's nothing illegal about it if you agree to it in advance, so no opportunity for lawyers to get involved.

I am a person who values my privacy more than many others (posting on SMC excepted, I guess) and I don't agree to that kind of data collection. So, I spend a lot of time trying to find ways to keep my information private. If you are of the "I have nothing to hide" persuasion and you're willing to trade access to personal information in exchange for convenience, more power to you. I just feel strongly that people should be aware.

Travis Porter
02-07-2018, 4:24 PM
Since it was at 4:00 am, and stopped after disconnecting from netwwork it was probably a "smart" factory programmed update.

We had some ghosts also.
We would do a system shutdown of all our video and components then leave that part of our house, only to hear the Toshiba TV a few minutes later. We would turn it off, it would come back on... off-on.....

It was maybe my wife's phone,...... we think. We had enabled the HDMI-CEC (HDMI-CEC”, short for HDMI Consumer Electronics Control, is an HDMI feature many TVs and peripherals have. Source -https://www.howtogeek.com/207186/how-to-enable-hdmi-cec-on-your-tv-and-why-you-should/).

She had a TV remote app and we have a Amazon Fire Stick in the TV. One of them was turning it back on. We disabled CEC. She can no longer use her phone as a TV remote and the fire stick can no longer switch inputs, we have to use the TV factory remote for those functions; but, it stays off when we turn it off.

I have seen TV's and other electronic devices turn on by themselves. I have also seen a 220V tablesaw cut on by itself one time, but it was not connected to the internet or wifi.

I personally don't think there is any way to be totally protected. Keeping up with what you have on your network and what and how it communicates internally and externally is not an insignificant endeavor. The fact that we have devices that communicate and link up outwards automatically is another hole...