Smart Home Tech Dangerous if Relationships Sour

John Lister's picture

Researchers have warned that smart home technology could be used to aid domestic abuse. They've put together resources for people who could be threatened by abusive partners or former partners.

The list comes from University College London and follows a New York Times article detailing some of the way domestic abusers have turned smart home tech into a tool to further their abuse.

One example is a former partner taking account of a security loophole to continue to access a smart doorbell. That meant they could not only watch video of the partner leaving or returning from the house and monitor their visitors, but could also harass them verbally through a doorbell speaker. (Source:

Thermostat Could Be 'Weaponized'

Another problem with smart locks is a risk that a former partner could gain unauthorized access to the property.

While some of the listed threats involved monitoring (such as accessing security cameras), others included scaring or confusing the victim. Techniques could include remotely locking doors and adjusting lighting and even thermostat controls to create discomfort.

It's even suggested that former partners who were able to get close to a house could trigger home assistant devices such as the Amazon Echo with disruptive instructions.

Password Changes are The Key

The advice for those who break up with a potentially abusive or obsessive partner is to take a thorough approach to security. This includes changing the passwords on all home devices including both the security password on WiFi networks and the administration password on a router. (Source:

Researchers also say people concerned about harassment should change passwords on all online accounts, mute the microphone on smart devices whenever they are out, and make sure to update operating software on all devices to reduce the changes of bugs being exploited.

What's Your Opinion?

Is this sensible advice or fear mongering? Had you considered this aspect of risk with smart home devices? Should manufacturers do more to warn users about such risks?

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Dennis Faas's picture

For those who don't use Smart Devices in their home, this is really no different than allowing a former partner access to your network. Once they have access to the home they can plant malware on machines to spy, read emails, and the like. I have received quite a few emails from concerned users who claim their ex has access to their smartphone. This would is possible but difficult to pull off, unless the ex had access to your phone and planted it prior to the breakup. In that case the best advice is to reset the phone, change WiFi passwords and all passwords previously used to access email accounts, etc. You really need to be careful who you let in and what access they have.

doulosg's picture

Step 2: Begin the abuse.