Shopping for Smart Home Gifts? Shop Smart

Connected Life

Even if you’re not considering a Wi-Fi connected Barbie, you may be giving others or expect to get one of the 50 million smart home devices expected to be sold this holiday season.

Given that this is the first holiday season when appliances offering internet-connected automation have hit the mainstream, a lot of people aren’t sure what to look for when shopping for IoT devices.

Making your home smart presents new security risks, but it can also save you or your family’s lives.

A Harris poll from earlier this year found that what IoT adoption is looking like in the U.S.:


Speaker systems are proving to be the most widely adopted smart devices both for the practicality and relatively few security risks. Thermostats come in second, though hacking a net-connected central temperature device could give criminals details about your comings and goings. Wireless security devices require a lot of trust in the manufacturer — but so do so “non-smart” security systems.

Most of the risks the millions of smart home users face are largely theoretical at this point — unless you’re a high-level target. But that could change quickly after this holiday season puts tens of millions more people on the IoT.

The Online Trust Alliance recognizes that many of us are just getting into the IoT’s who new world of possibilities and vulnerabilities so it has put out a checklist of all the questions you should ask before buying a smart home device.

It’s quite comprehensive, so the group has boiled its work down to three concerns:

  • Before purchase, confirm your ability to return the device for a refund if upon set up you find the security and/or privacy practices do not meet your personal requirements. If you cannot opt out of sharing data with third parties or are not provided the option of opting in, consider alternative products.
  • Before purchase, review the device’s warranty and support policies and verify that security and software patches are provided for the life of the product, beyond that of the warranty offered by the manufacturer.
  • Review the privacy practices of connected devices you own or are considering buying, including data collection and sharing policies with third parties. Reset permissions to reflect your preferences (for example – data collection and sharing, camera and microphone settings and other functions). If your settings cannot be modified, consider the “reset to factory settings” option to force a clean setup.

If you’re still shopping around Tom’s Guide has put out a list of the best smart home devices it has found. As have Tech Crunch and Tech Hive. And if you’re serious about security your new smart home, be sure to check out our F-Secure Sense, which will plug the security holes created by connecting your life to the net.


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