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A look at some of the big takeaways from the release of the redacted Mueller report. Also, on our Friday rundown: Iowa recovers from devastating floods and prepares for more. And, scallopers urged to minimize the threat to seagrass.

Daily Newscasts

Is a Smart Home a Safe Home?

A smart refrigerator is convenient but, like any device that connects to the internet, it can be hacked. (David Berkowitz/Flickr)
A smart refrigerator is convenient but, like any device that connects to the internet, it can be hacked. (David Berkowitz/Flickr)
December 19, 2017

SEATTLE – In tech-savvy Washington state, it's likely many people will be unwrapping smart devices and appliances this Christmas. But how secure are these devices?

The collection of home appliances such as refrigerators and smart speakers - and even self-driving vehicles - that can connect to the web are known as the Internet of Things, or IoT. Their popularity is growing rapidly: experts predict there could be 9 billion devices with this capability by 2020.

Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, says these devices can be hacked, just like any computer or smartphone. He gives the example of a 'smart' garage-door opener.

"You get to your house, you press the button and the garage door doesn't open – because the device has been hacked and stopped from opening," he warns. "They're vulnerable because, the way IoT has grown right now, it's not clear yet how all these devices will be maintained over time."

Although the IoT market has grown rapidly, it's still in its early stages. Kaiser explains some smart devices might store information on their users, but many don't have their own memory. In that case, the data is likely offloaded to the cloud. He says unfortunately, much of the onus is on manufacturers to store and manage this data safely.

But Kaiser says consumers can take some of the responsibility into their own hands.

"Start out with research," he instructs. "Really look and see whether the devices that they're considering buying have had issues in the past, whether there are good reviews of these devices. Are there any security comments about these devices where there have been security incidents?"

Kaiser agrees that the ability to turn off the lights by talking to a smart speaker, or order more dish soap by pressing a button, makes people's lives easier.

"Those are convenience factors that bring a lot of utility to people's lives, but it always comes with some risk as well," Kaiser says. "That's really kind of the balance and the choices that people need to make in the digital age - around risk and convenience and security."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA