Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wireless home automation systems reveal more than you would think about user behaviour

24.07.2014

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: christoph.sorge@uni-saarland.de

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

Further reports about: Security Wireless conventional heating privacy technologies

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Japanese researchers develop ultrathin, highly elastic skin display
19.02.2018 | University of Tokyo

nachricht Why bees soared and slime flopped as inspirations for systems engineering
19.02.2018 | Georgia Institute of Technology

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

'Lipid asymmetry' plays key role in activating immune cells

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

MRI technique differentiates benign breast lesions from malignancies

20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering

Major discovery in controlling quantum states of single atoms

20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>