Rut Roh…

About that ‘smart home’ you…had…

The smart home company Insteon has vanished.

The entire company seems to have abruptly shut down just before the weekend, breaking users’ cloud-dependent smart-home setups without warning. Users say the service has been down for three days now despite the company status page saying, “All Services Online.” The company forums are down, and no one is replying to users on social media.

Full article, HERE from ArsTechnica.

I know I’m a dinosaur, but I just flat don’t want a ‘smart’ house. I don’t want someone to have the ability to hack my house and make it do things ‘I’ don’t want it to do, much less open the house to robbery, etc.

I do have an alarm system, not by choice, but required to get a low interest mortgage. But I also back it up with plain old smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers, along with other ‘home’ safety measures.

There are plenty of reports, or were, of hackers using ‘smart’ tech including electric meters, water usage, etc. to figure out when homeowners were gone and using that information (or selling it) to allow the house to be robbed.

YMMV, but those are ‘my’ thoughts.

h/t Stretch


Rut Roh… — 29 Comments

  1. I have internet at home with both hardwired and a wireless router. NONE of my appliances have a means to connect to the internet other than the TV’s, computers and phones. No ALexis or other snoopy devices, no interfacing with ANY of the utilities and my internet.
    Anyone wanting to snoop on my house and our habits had better park his ass on the street out front. And since I live in the desert and the nearest houses are measured by HUNDREDS OF YARDS of distance they won’t be snooping anonymously.

  2. X10 was as far as I went, and even those devices have diminished in time in my house.
    Stupid Arlo camera rarely tells me when anyone approaches the porch.

  3. The really scary part is that so many are so clueless.

    In order for these “smart” devices to respond to a voice command, they must listen to EVERYTHING, with an algorithm sorting out what not to respond to. They hear when your refrigerator comes on, and the model can be determined by the motor rpm. They can hear your toilet flush. They can also receive and transmit above the range or human hearing.

  4. I’m not a fan either.

    But I do remember a story, by Ray Bradbury I think, of an automated house that survived the nuclear holocaust and continued to preform it’s programmed duties every day. It was made into a radio show that aired on X Minus One among others. It was sad.

  5. I’m with you. Physical keys that I can hand out to people I KNOW is more important then turning on/off the A/C remotely. People dealth with this long before ‘smart homes’ were invented.

    Making a batch of popcorn to hear the Insteon complaints – should be interesting drama.

  6. Yet another reason to remember that “the cloud is just someone else’s computer”

    And yes as a Cybersecurity professional you couldn’t pay me to install smart lightswitches or similar in my house

  7. The Shadowrun RPG had an old sourcebook, ‘Sprawl Survival Guide’ which detailed the security flaws inherent in a ‘smart home’. And that book was published almost 20 years ago.

    I like tech and toys too, but I strive to remain aware that if I don’t have it, chances are good I can’t control it.

  8. The NY Times reported on one of these companies that sell a smart thermostat system which took people’s temperatures – and then sold that data to local advertisers. I’ll pass, I get enough junk calls as it is. I imagine that it would be a hassle to sell your smart house as well.

    • Depends on your phone carrier. I have a 4G flip phone I bought about 18 months ago. I use tracfone. $33 per quarter and everything unused rolls over. I have over 3100 minutes (over 48 hours), 1400 texts, & 4.33 GB of data (which I almost never use)

  9. @Mike V: The story is “There Will Come Soft Rains”. Chilling, like all of Bradbury’s best work.

    • That’s it!!! Yes, it and The Veldt are both chilling imaginings of what “Smart Homes” could be. At least “There Will Come Soft Rains” was benign toward it’s humans.

  10. Hey Old NFO;

    Sure a “Smart House” sounds cool in a “Trekkie” kind of way, but I flat out don’t trust them, I still remember 2001 and the computer “HAL” and the chilling “I’m Sorry Dave, I can’t do that”.

  11. Smart homes sound dangerous to me… There you are, about to make a sandwich and the fridge attacks you. Nightmare.

  12. Can’t believe no one else mentioned Skynet/Big Brother having access to whatever you do. “Citizen, it has come to Big Brother’s attention that you had a house party in violation of pandemic quarantine rules.”

  13. The thing is, you just know the FBI and (in)Justice Department have been using smart house tech to spy on people.

    Like using smart tvs to listen in.

    And listening through the Alexis and other listening thingies.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if they hacked the info from one’s Roomba to get a floor plan with all the furniture layout.

    • Hack? Why bother – Roomba collects the information and won’t say what they do with it.
      I assume they would give or sell it to the feds!

  14. @Bob: Read or watch “Demon Seed” for a story about a smart house AI run amok.. It was popular on our submarine (for *two* reasons, ahem) but pretty scary, especially once the AI got full control of the 3d printer at the end…

  15. My wife and I won’t do the Smart Home stuff. I don’t like it because you have to use the servers of whomever. Maybe, a very cautious maybe, if it were totally hosted by a server I owned that was not connected to the Internet, I might go for a Smart Home. The big BUT is that no one is going to do that because they can’t sell the info.

    A cautionary tale with respect to Smart Home devices. The A/C person who installed our thermostat, which is not a Nest, told me that in Austin, Texas, the City required you to register your Nest thermostat with the city. People would go out of town and come back and find that the City had taken control of their house’s heating and/or cooling. Well, Austin is Moscow on the Colorado!

  16. I will be retrofitting a programmable thermostat in our house soon but no ‘smart’ devices at all. Also, if you have a guest WiFi network move any streaming devices (Roku, Bluray player, etc) over to that network so even if the device is compromised the attacker can’t hop over to a computer with personal data…

  17. All- Damned good points! And yes, Ray Bradbury nailed it. The Austin story is true too!!!

  18. In networking we talk about the data plane and the control plane. Getting temp data to the web for external access is data plane traffic.. Allowing management via the web is control plane. Both are security risks, but allowing remote control for your convenience is what allowed Austin to do their override games.

    However, if you aren’t going to be at home for an extended period why keep the house at 72F at all? Let the temp run up higher and save on your power bill.

  19. I will not allow those things in our house. I even went so far as to disable the built-in wireless on the two new TV’s we bought for here.

  20. I worry too about how tech-dependent cars have become. I wonder how difficult it would be to drop a virus into a Tesla update. Disable the vehicles all at the same time, or worse, disable the brakes and floor the accelerator.

    • It doesn’t need a virus, just an insider who decides to lock up 85% of the battery capacity instead of the normal 10-15%.

      Telsa famously UN-locked the buffer capacity after a Florida hurricane to allow Tesla drivers to get further away before having to stop for an hour or more to recharge..

  21. Now let’s see… I’ve just hacked Old NFO’s HVAC system, and it’s the dog days of summer in Texas. I’ll just wait until 2:00 AM and switch the A/C off, the ventilate the house with air from outside – where it’s still 110° F. He’ll discover this around 5:30.

    Yeah, the Austin story is true, so far as I know. I’ll never have a smart home.

  22. Our TV remotes have microphones so you can avoid the stress and strain of pushing buttons.
    Too bad I had them on my work bench when repairing some stuff. Seems some thick glue got stuck in the mic holes.
    All laptops and tablets seem to have suffered the same accident.