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Can Hackers Steal Your Personal Data through Smart Light Bulbs

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Researchers found out that the invisible wave spectrum in the smart bulbs could be intercepted by the hackers. Read on to know more…

Smart bulbs are a popular purchase for everyone in the festival and holiday season. But could lighting your home open up your personal information to hackers? Earlier this year Amazon’s Echo made global headlines when it was reported that consumers’ conversations were recorded and heard by thousands of employees.

A new study warns that smart light bulbs could allow hackers to steal your personal data. The research study titled “Light Ears: Information Leakage via Smart Lights”, conducted by researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has revealed that smart light bulbs could allow hackers to steal your personal information.

Investigation
The researchers have reviewed the security holes that exist in popular smart-light brands and have determined that the next prime target for cyberattacks could be smart bulbs that are connected to other home devices. UTSA researchers found out that the invisible wave spectrum in the smart bulbs, that come equipped with infrared capabilities, could be controlled by hackers.

Researchers noted that some smart bulbs connect to a home network without requiring a smart home hub, and if these smart bulbs are infrared-enabled, then hackers can interact with them. Hackers can send commands to such smart bulbs via the infrared invisible light emanated from the bulbs to either steal data or spoof other connected devices on the home network.

“Your smart bulb could come equipped with infrared capabilities, and most users don’t know that the invisible wave spectrum can be controlled. You can misuse those lights,” said Murtuza Jadliwala, professor and director of the Security, Privacy, Trust and Ethics in Computing Research Lab in UTSA’s Department of Computer Science. “Any data can be stolen: texts or images. Anything that is stored in a computer.”

Some smart bulbs connect to a home network without needing a smart home hub, a centralized hardware or software device where other internet of things products communicate with each other. Smart home hubs, which connect either locally or to the cloud, are useful for IoT devices that use the Zigbee or Z-Wave protocols or Bluetooth, rather than Wi-Fi.

If these same bulbs are also infrared-enabled, hackers can send commands via the infrared invisible light emanated from the bulbs to either steal data or spoof other connected IoT devices on the home network. The owner might not know about the hack because the hacking commands are communicated within the owner’s home Wi-Fi network, without using the internet.

Mitigation
Jadliwala provided recommendations to avoid smart bulbs from getting exploited, which include consumers should prefer bulbs that come with a smart home hub rather than those that connect directly to other home devices. And also he recommends smart bulb manufacturers to implement security measures to limit the level of access that smart bulbs have to other connected home devices.

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