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Domestic abusers are exploiting smart home devices

Domestic abusers are exploiting smart home devices
© Warrengoldswain | Dreamstime.com

The connected smart home is fast becoming the norm, wouldn't you agree? Smart gadgets like light bulbs, smart assistant speakers, thermostats, cameras and door locks arguably make life more convenient.

That futuristic "Back To The Future" vibe can be Marty McFly cool, but are we trading convenience for our privacy and security? Can smart appliances be used for other misdeeds like domestic abuse?

Read on and see why domestic abuse via smart appliances is a growing concern.

Domestic abusers are exploiting smart appliances

Although smart appliances do offer many conveniences in the modern home, this level of connected control can have dangerous consequences for domestic abuse victims.

According to interviews conducted by The New York Times, some domestic abuse perpetrators are using a home's connected appliances like smart speakers, security cameras, smart doorbells, smart lights and smart thermostats to harass, stalk and control their victims.

These revelations indicate that there are emerging occurrences of domestic abuse that leverages the technology inherent in smart home appliances.

Armed with the technical know-how and the apps required to control smart appliances remotely, the person who installs the equipment in a household can abuse this knowledge to intimidate and harass intended victims.

In fact, according to organizations who work with domestic abuse victims, smart home device exploits have ramped up in these cases over the past year. Even lawyers are now trying to figure out ways to include smart home technologies in restraining orders.

The smart appliance/domestic abuse stories range from the remote operation of lights to fiddling with the thermostat to raise a house's temperature to uncomfortable levels to sudden playback of loud music by smart speakers.

Other dangers include spying and covert surveillance via smart security cameras. Although this kind of monitoring is covered under existing "revenge porn" laws, it is only illegal if the abuser distributes the video taken by a connected security camera.

Turning your house into a smart home is exciting but be careful! Listen to my Komando On Demand podcast to learn how to watch for the warning signs so technology doesn't take over your home.

How to deal with these dangers?

Of course, the best recourse for smart home appliance abuse victims is to completely disconnect or reset these smart appliances.

However, since neither non-tech savvy victims nor their friends know how these gadgets work, it may be difficult to discern the there's a pattern of abuse until considerable emotional damage has been done.

Furthermore, potential victims can fight back by learning more about smart devices and by seeking advice on how to operate them. Most of the time, a simple factory reset and a change of passwords is all it takes to regain control of smart appliances.

Conveniences aside, being well-informed and savvy about your smart home is your best defense, not just against hackers, but against domestic abusers, as well.

Note: If you are in an abusive relationship, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and 1-800-787-3224 for 24/7 support.

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