Spend a few minutes on eBay and you’ll easily come across dozens of second-hand smart devices. Used smart locks, light bulbs, power outlets, video doorbells, thermostats and more are trading hands every day. This may seem like a great way to pick up some high tech gear at a discounted price, but what you might not realize is that when you are the second or third owner of a smart device, you are potentially inheriting some serious security risks.
Unlike the smart phone industry who have adopted standards and best practices for second-hand sales of their devices, most smart home product manufacturers have failed to account of this possibility at all. Smart phones have functionality built in to clear out and remove all kind of data, either by the original user or the re-seller, before the phone is sold to a new owner. With smart home devices though, the options for erasing and resetting accounts and information are all too frequently lacking, that is if you can find them at all.
Beyond just re-selling of smart home devices on sites like eBay and Craigslist, because so many of these items are installed permanently or semi-permanently into a home, they are frequently left in place when homes are sold. This can seem like an attractive benefit to both a realtor and a home buyer, but that also might mean ending up with a bunch of devices that are still hooked up to someone else’s accounts.
A previous user having remote access to some of your devices (either knowingly or unknowingly – they may not even realize it!) might seem like a minor annoyance, if not a little creepy, when it comes to things like smart light bulbs and smart thermostats. But what if the previous owner still has access to the smart lock on your front door? Or your wireless security camera? That could have potentially serious consequences.
For the moment, smart device manufacturers don’t seem at all on the same page about this issue. That means it has fallen largely to realtors to try and tackle some of the trickier aspects of smart devices trading hands. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has developed a Smart Home Checklist that can help sellers, buyers, and realtors figure out the best way to transfer ownership of smart home products. And while the hope to do more in the future, for now half the battle is just figuring out which devices are even in a home and who the manufacturer is.
If you do find yourself with second-hand smart home devices, either through a home purchase or eBay, make sure you do perform a factory reset on each device to restore it as closely as possible to the manufacturer’s presets. Unfortunately, a factory reset may not even be enough to clear out a previous user’s information or revoke remote access. So, it’s also a good idea to contact the manufacturer and ask if there is anything they can on their end to clear our information in a central database, or if there are additional steps they recommend after a factory reset to ensure your device’s security.
To learn about keeping your home safe, contact Specialty Alarm Engineering at firstname.lastname@example.org today!