Identification of security threats to data privacy posed by smart appliances in home area networks
Nshimba, Kalala Tshimankinda
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The adoption of smart technology has seen great increase in the past few years, at the core of this increase is the affordability of hardware such as sensors, microcontrollers, memory, and open-source operating systems that are based on the Linux kernel. By putting this hardware into an ordinary appliance such as fridge, coupled with an operating system, you have a smart appliance. A traditional home area network that once comprised only of computers and other Wi-Fi gadgets now has smart objects connected to it and the result is a smart home. The interconnection of IoT devices in a smart home, no doubt, brings many benefits to homeowners, but it also introduces privacy concerns. The design of smart devices depicts a four-layer architectural design. The majority of the devices have sensors to gather data from their surroundings (perception layer); the devices have network capability using different protocols (network layer); certain devices have the ability to store data on the internet as cloud storage (support layer); and most devices are equipped with, or able to connect with, a user interface (application layer). This four-layer architecture is used in this study as a theoretical framework to understand and identify concerns regarding Internet of Things components. After a theoretical investigation into Internet of Things components and computer security aimed at understanding the security concerns of these devices, the results of an interpretive empirical investigation are presented. The aim of the empirical investigation is to understand the security concerns of specific devices and appliances based on the manufacturer’s selection of specific hardware and software components. From the analysis of the data it is evident that policies on gathering, transmitting, storage and especially sharing private date are posing the greatest risk to home owners. The research also discusses ways of mitigating security issues that may exist due to the addition of smart devices into one’s home. This is achieved by creating guidelines that can help each homeowner to be more knowledgeable about the type of smart device they plan to add to their network, by identifying the security concerns and providing a way to mitigate these concerns. This study is structured as follows: Chapter one introduces the research by highlighting its objectives; in Chapter 2 the research path this study is taking is identified; in Chapters 3 and 4, background information on Internet of Things and computer security are given; in Chapter 5 a comprehensive empirical investigation on the collected data is carried out; in Chapter 6 findings of the research are discussed; and in Chapter 7 a conclusion of the study is given.