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Your "smart" home devices can easily be hacked

The "smart" home may not be quite as clever as you think.

With the arrival of the so-called Internet of things -- where household items such as thermostats and washing machines and webcams are connected to the global network -- security problems may also be on the rise. A study from security research company Synack found that commonly connected products opened up a host of safety issues. One of the firm's analysts noted it took him only 20 minutes to break into a range of devices, according to GigaOm.

The study comes amid heightened concern about hackers and the vulnerability of everything from credit cards to automobiles. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) issued a report this month warning about the dangers of hacking attacks against vehicles. In the Synack study, the only device that didn't have a major security flaw was a Kidde smoke detector, which wasn't actually connected to the Internet.

Keep your "smart home" from being hacked

"Right now the 'Internet of things' is like computer security was in the nineties, when everything was new and no one had any security standards or any way to monitor their devices for security," Synack security research analyst Colby Moore told GigaOm.

You do have some ways to protect your home against hackers, such as hard-wiring devices to the Internet rather than relying on WiFi. But if a device is linked via a wireless network, make sure it alerts you if it's bumped off the connection.

Plus, connected devices require strong passwords, so don't enter useless ones such as "123" or "password." Still, GigaOm notes that might be difficult for devices, such as thermostats, that don't come with keyboards.

Manufacturers of networked home devices aren't thinking about security front and foremost, according to Network World. That means it's up to consumers to evaluate the safety and security issues of each thermostat or home automation center on their own.

According to the Synack study, connected cameras have the greatest number of security flaws, including unencrypted data and weak password policies. All of the connected thermostats the firm studied have security issues (including poor password protection), as well as the home automation centers. The smoke and carbon monoxide alarms had issues, except for the Kidde version, which doesn't connect to the Internet.

The report backs up some findings published last year by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which found that security issues are exploding as the Internet of things makes its way inside our living rooms.

The HP study noted: "A couple of security concerns on a single device such as a mobile phone can quickly turn to 50 or 60 concerns when considering multiple (Internet of things) devices in an interconnected home or business."