Home automation systems that control domestic lighting, heating, window blinds or door locks offer opportunities for third parties to intrude on the privacy of the inhabitants and gain considerable insight into their behavioural patterns.
This is the conclusion reached by IT security expert Christoph Sorge and his research team at Saarland University. Even data transmitted from encrypted systems can provide information useful to potential burglars. Professor Sorge, who holds the juris Professorship in Legal Informatics at Saarland University, and his research group are currently studying ways to make home automation systems more secure.
Frederik Möllers from Sorge’s team will be presenting the results at the ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks in Oxford on 25 July.
Regulating heating systems to save energy, adjusting lighting levels based on the time of day, watering house plants automatically, and raising or lowering blinds at the required times – the benefits of today’s smart home automation systems are numerous and they are becoming increasingly popular with homeowners.
However, studies by the research group led by Professor Christoph Sorge have shown that these wireless systems can also pose a security risk. ‘Many of the systems do not provide adequate security against unwanted third-party access and therefore threaten the privacy of the inhabitants,’ says Sorge, an expert for IT security, data protection and encryption technology at Saarland University. Sorge and his team have examined how susceptible the systems are to attack.
For the purposes of their study, the researchers took on the role of a malicious attacker. ‘Using a simple mini-PC no bigger in size than a packet of cigarettes we eavesdropped on the wireless home automation systems (HASs) of two volunteers and were thus able to determine just how much information a conventional wireless HAS reveals about its user,’ explains Sorge.
No other information about the users was available to the research group. The result: ‘Non-encrypted systems provide large quantities of data to anyone determined enough to access the data, and the attacker requires no prior knowledge about the system, nor about the user being spied on,’ says Professor Sorge.
‘The data acquired by the attacker can be analysed to extract system commands and status messages, items which reveal a lot about the inhabitants’ behaviour and habits. We were able to determine absence times and to identify home ventilation and heating patterns,’ explains the expert in legal informatics.
The analysis enabled the research group to build up profiles of the inhabitants. Even systems that use encryption technology can supply information to third parties: ‘The results indicate that even when encrypted communication is used, the number of messages exchanged is enough to provide information on absence times,’ says Sorge. Potential attacks can be directed against the functionality of the system or the privacy of the inhabitants. ‘An attacker with malicious intent could use this sort of information to plan a burglary,’ says Sorge.
‘A great deal still needs to be done to make wireless home automation systems secure. Improved data encryption and concealment technologies would be an important step towards protecting the privacy of HAS users,’ explains Professor Sorge. He and his group are currently working on developing technology of this type in collaboration with the University of Paderborn as part of a research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy.
The research work into home automation systems began with a Master’s degree thesis by Andreas Hellmann, who was supervised by Professor Sorge while still at the University of Paderborn. With his research group now based at Saarland University, Professor Sorge is currently continuing research in this area with his research assistant Frederik Möllers, who will be presenting the results of their recent study in Oxford on 25 July.
Background: Christoph Sorge is an expert for IT security, data privacy, secure communications, encryption technologies, electronic signatures, and the use of IT systems in the legal sector. He holds a professorship endowed by juris GmbH at the Institute for Legal Informatics at Saarland University where he and his team teach and conduct research work at the interface of technology and law. Prior to taking up his position in Saarbrücken, Sorge held a Junior Professorship in Network Security at the University of Paderborn.
Contact: Professor Christoph Sorge:
Phone: +49 (0)681 302-5122 (Office: -5120), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
German Version of the press release: https://www.idw-online.de/de/news597128
A press photograph is available at http://www.uni-saarland.de/pressefotos and can be used at no charge. Please read and comply with the conditions of use.
Note for radio journalists: Studio-quality telephone interviews can be conducted with researchers at Saarland University using broadcast audio IP codec technology (IP direct dial or via the ARD node 106813020001). Interview requests should be addressed to the university’s Press and Public Relations Office (+49 (0)681 302-2601 or -64091).
Claudia Ehrlich | Universität des Saarlandes
Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches
25.05.2018 | Universität Ulm
Supercomputing the emergence of material behavior
18.05.2018 | University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences