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Security & privacy

Warning! These smart plugs can be hacked and start fires

Smart plugs may not be the first item you think of when you’re checking out smart gadgets, but maybe they should be. These handy outlet plugs are a lot more useful than you’d think.

Want to set a timer for your Christmas lights? Smart plugs can do that. Or, do you constantly forget to turn off the lamps in your den? Set your smart plugs to do it for you. Tap or click to find out eight practical smart plug uses.

But, while smart plugs make it simple to save on electricity or light your home, it turns out they can also cause some problems. A recent study found some major security flaws with the smart plugs it tested. If you’re using smart plugs in your home, you may want to take note of the issue.

Problems with smart plugs

The U.K.-based organization Which? recently completed a study into smart plugs, and what it found was quite troubling. It turns out that some of the cheap smart plugs found on online marketplaces can come with critical security issues that expose you to hackers. Even worse? Some design flaws may even start a fire.

As part of the study, Which? bought 10 smart plugs from popular online retailers for testing. They ranged from popular brands like TP-Link and Hive to lesser-known brands like Hictkon, Meross and Ajax Online. Nine of 10 smart plugs tested had issues, and a total of 13 vulnerabilities were pinpointed altogether.

The smart plugs with safety issues:

  • Hictkon Smart Plug
    • Purchased on: Amazon.
    • Main issues: A poorly-designed plug poses a fire risk, especially to homes with older wiring.
    • Next steps: If you’re using this smart plug, Which? recommends you unplug it and stop using it immediately.

The smart plugs with security issues:

  • TP Link Kasa Smart Plug
    • Purchased on: Amazon.
    • Main issues: A critical security flaw could allow a hacker to seize total control of the plug and the power going to the connected device. This particular vulnerability is the result of weak encryption.
    • Next steps: According to Which?, TP-Link has developed a fix for the issue with the Kasa smart plug. The patch will roll out this month (October).
  • Meross Smart Plug
    • Purchased on: Amazon.
    • Main issues: The main issue Which? identified with the Meross smart plug was that users’ Wi-Fi passwords were not encrypted during the smart plug setup. That means a hacker could, in theory, steal them and use the Wi-Fi connection or compromise other devices.
    • Next steps: Meross told Which? that it would work to fix the issue, but no date for the fix has been noted yet.
  • Innr Smart Plug
    • Purchased on: Amazon.
    • Main issues: A security issue could give hackers access to devices and divulge information about when you are in and out of your home. This could become a real issue if criminals found a way to monitor that info.
    • Next steps: Which? tried to contact Innr but has not heard back on the issue.
  • Hive Active Smart Plugs
    • Purchased on: Amazon.
    • Main issues: The issues with Hive smart plugs are the same as the ones with Innr: a security issue could give hackers access to devices and divulge information about when you are in and out of your home. This could become a real issue if criminals found a way to monitor that info.
    • Next steps: Hive told Which? that “We agree any potential vulnerability is serious and we will be reviewing the full findings to evaluate the seriousness of this claim.”

Related: Smart Home starter kit — which should you buy first?

Safer smart plug alternatives

If you want to replace your smart plugs with a different option, you may want to check out one of these security-focused options instead.

Amazon Smart Plug

The Amazon Smart Plug a safe way to turn your regular outlets into smart outlets. This well-reviewed smart plug is easy to use, easy to set up and offers Alexa voice control. The one downside is that it works exclusively with Alexa, so if you want to use smart plugs with your Google Assistant, this won’t be the best option. You’ll also need a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network for it to work.

Gosund Mini Wi-Fi Outlet

The Gosund Mini Wi-Fi Outlet is another good option. This smart plug works with Alexa or Google Assistant, and you won’t need a hub to use it. Plus, the ETL certification ensures complete protection, so you won’t have to worry about the security issues that could arise with other smart plugs.

By clicking our links, you’re supporting our research, as we may earn a very small commission. Recommendations are not part of any business incentives.

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