Your house knows you better than your significant other

By: Christopher Wooten, Senior Forensic Examiner

In every relationship it takes time and moments together to create a bond. Once that bond is established, we begin to feel comfortable enough to share personal information about ourselves with another person. However, we tend to skip the “getting to know you phase” and start divulging all of our personal information with our connected devices – where we’re going, where we’ve been, our likes and dislikes, passwords, live video feeds of our house, and so on. We tend to trust these devices implicitly before understanding how they’re using our information. In personal relationships, it could take months if not years of getting to know someone before we’re ready to share such intimate details about our lives.

Your devices are always listening & recording

The pieces of information collected through each application and connected device in your home, car, and on your person can paint an elaborate picture of where you’ve been, what you’re doing, what you’re saying and what’s going on around you. Devices such as smart appliances, security camera, locks digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Hub are utilized daily and are always listening, collecting and storing data locally and to the cloud. Here’s a partial list of some of the information our connected devices store:

• Video/voice Recordings
• Motion Sensing (date/time)
• Open/close (lock/unlock)
• Geolocation history
• Text & voice messages
• Images & videos
• Information requests

How can this data be used?

We buy these devices to better our everyday lives, but it’s important to know the extent to what information these devices can provide to others. One of the obvious concerns is privacy. Sharing intimate details about every aspect of your life can be very valuable information to companies trying to find an edge with potential customers. We’ve seen similar examples of this with recent investigations into social media sites and how they’re abusing this information. But, what about the not so obvious concerns? IoT devices can be used in the commission a crime and as a witness to such. When analyzing evidence investigators can construct a timeline of events. Bits and pieces of information can be collected and combined to create a timeline of events. Smart garage door openers, switches, lights and digital assistants can paint a very detailed picture of crime scene.

I’m not a criminal, so why should I care?

Most people are not criminals nor are they worried about becoming one and having their IoT device used against them. However, there have been many cases recently where people have been victims of harassment or domestic abuse where their connected devices were used against them. I’ve read tales about abusers locking their victims out of their homes through smart locks; remotely adjusting the thermostat to 100 degrees; lights turning on randomly; music being blasted through connected speakers; eavesdropping through connected cameras. Some victims have said they felt like prisoners in their own homes.
Before you bring any technology into your home, it’s important to assess how you’re going to use it, how you can adjust limits on access, and how to remove or disable it in extreme cases.

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