Online Trust Alliance and National Association of Realtors Create Smart Home Security and Privacy Checklist

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Guidance for home buyers, renters and real estate industry to help protect consumers during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

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Although we enjoy the benefits of a connected lifestyle, we must not lose sight of the risks a smart home may pose to our privacy and physical safety.

In support of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) have partnered to create a Smart Home Checklist that offers guidance to help home buyers, renters and sellers manage the privacy and security of their smart homes and devices.

Today’s homes are being built and retrofitted with smart apps and devices to monitor things like security, temperature and lighting. Homeowners and renters should be cognizant that these devices may be collecting personal information, or have unpatched vulnerabilities or passwords set by previous homeowners, vendors or maintenance personnel. As evidenced by some of the largest data breaches, access through one device can compromise an entire network. While home buyers are increasingly embracing an “always on” lifestyle, they may not be aware of the potential privacy or security risks.

“As smart technology becomes more prevalent in our homes, it’s important that we all take precautions to protect our data and privacy,” said NAR President Chris Polychron. “The Online Trust Alliance’s Smart Home Checklist takes a common-sense approach to protecting sensitive information and offers sound advice for anyone who uses smart technology in their day-to-day lives.”

“Although we enjoy the benefits of a connected lifestyle, we must not lose sight of the risks a smart home may pose to our privacy and physical safety. As evidenced by some privacy practices and recent vulnerabilities with smart cars, TVs and baby monitors, consumers need to be aware of and manage smart devices in their homes,” said Craig Spiezle, President and Executive Director of the Online Trust Alliance. “Following these recommendations will help consumers better protect their privacy and identity and prevent their personal data from falling into the hands of cybercriminals and being sold to the highest bidder.”

Not unlike turning over all keys and remote controls, the home buyer and renter should ensure that the seller, previous tenants and unauthorized third parties no longer have access to the home’s or apartment’s critical systems and devices.

Recently the OTA released a draft of its Internet of Things (IoT) Trust Framework, providing guidance to device manufacturers, retailers and application developers to address the top security, privacy and sustainability risks for connected devices, smart homes and wearable technologies. The Framework is the result of input from industry, government and non-profits including NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology. Details are posted at https://otalliance.org/IoT.

The Center for REALTOR® Technology, NAR’s Technology Research & Development group, is leading the IoT initiatives for NAR. Aside from educating its membership, CRT is also working closely with universities, vendors, NGOs and government agencies in the name of homeownership and the role of NAR’s 1.1 million members in improving quality of life for homeowners using IoT devices.

THE SMART HOME CHECKLIST
Maximizing security & privacy in your connected home

Prior to Occupancy / Closing

  • Obtain inventory and documentation of all connected devices including but not limited to manuals, vendor / manufacturer contacts and websites. Examples of connected devices include:

        1. Modems, gateways, hubs, access points
        2. Connected access for garage, locks, gates
        3. External keypads for garage, locks, gates
        4. Thermostats, HVAC, energy systems
        5. Smart lighting systems
        6. Smoke, carbon monoxide, etc. detectors
        7. Sprinkler / irrigation systems
        8. Appliances (TV, refrigerator, washer/dryer, etc.)
        9. Auto controls linked to home systems
     10. Security alarms, video monitoring systems

  • Review privacy and data sharing policies of all devices and services.
  • Obtain confirmation from previous occupants and vendors they no longer have administrative or user access.

All Smart Home Devices & Applications

  • Submit change of ownership and contact information to device manufacturers and service providers (email addresses, cell phone numbers, etc.) to ensure you receive security updates and related notifications to maximize your security and privacy.
  • Review devices’ warranty and support policies. Occupants should consider disabling devices or specific features that are no longer supported by a vendor.
  • Review the configuration settings for remote access, encryption and update cycles and adjust where needed.
  • Reset privacy and data sharing settings to reflect your preferences. For example – data collection and sharing, camera and microphone settings and other device functions.

Modems, Gateways & Hubs

  • Review home Internet routers and devices to ensure they support the latest security protocols and standards and disable older insecure protocols.
  • Update and modify all system passwords and user names upon taking possession of your new home or rental unit. Where possible create unique passwords and usernames for administrative accounts.
  • Run updates and contact manufacturers to confirm devices are patched with the latest software and firmware.

Security Alarms, Keyless Entry, Gate Systems, etc.

  • Reset access and guest codes for gates and garage door openers.

Home Thermostats, HVAC Systems, Smart TVs, Lighting & Other Devices

  • Disable connectivity for devices no longer supported by the manufacturer or replace these devices.
  • Review the privacy practices of the connected devices including data collection and sharing with third parties and reset permissions as appropriate.

For more information visit https://otalliance.org/smarthome.

About OTA:
The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) is a non-profit with the mission to enhance online trust and user empowerment while promoting innovation and the vitality of the Internet. Its goal is to help educate businesses, policy makers and stakeholders while developing and advancing best practices and tools to enhance the protection of users' security, privacy and identity. OTA supports collaborative public-private partnerships, benchmark reporting, and meaningful self-regulation and data stewardship. Its members and supporters include leaders spanning the public policy, technology, ecommerce, social networking, mobile, email and interactive marketing, financial, service provider, government agency and industry organization sectors.

About the National Association of Realtors:
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

OTA Contact:
Bradley Barth | Program Executive
Voxus PR for OTA
253-444-5923
bbarth(at)voxuspr(dot)com

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Bradley Barth
@otalliance
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