Behind the firewall

Local area networks were meant to connect computers and peripherals together. It’s a more recent phenomenon that many different types of network devices are being added, especially in our homes.

By no means do I claim to be a network security expert. In fact, we have been criticized in the past for vulnerabilities with the Ubi. However, knowing what others can know about us based on the devices in our home is interesting.

Much more than our laptops, printers, tablets, and phones, new home automation devices are coming onboard that should cause us to think about what data could be used by these devices. Wireless cameras like Dropcam and Arlo, hubs likes SmartHome or Wink, thermostats like Nest and ecobee, or even door locks like Kwikset or August — while these all provide huge convenience, they have access to all of the traffic on our WiFi networks.

For a brief synopsis of how network communication works and packet sniffing, you can read more here. Basically, these are just some of the things that any device on the network can know:

  1. How many and what kinds of other devices are on the network.
  2. What websites and services are being accessed.
  3. Your pattern of Internet usage (time of day, intensity)
  4. What WiFi networks are in range and what’s their signal strength.
  5. What your connectivity speed is.
  6. Which devices come and go off the network and at what times.

Matching this data with the applications that are running on the device can give the device maker a lot of insight into you. Correlating this data with other data collected through other networks can perhaps give very big insights into our behaviours. Maybe it’s not bad, but it’s something we should be aware of when we put an Echo, a Nest, or some other WiFi device into our home network.

Over the next few years, we’ll probably be needing to go through security hygiene training and will adopt VPNs en masse.

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