RISMedia's Real Estate Magazine

AUG 2018

Real Estate magazine is the industry's leading source for real estate news and information since 1980. Published monthly by RISMedia, Real Estate magazine offers timely and relevant real estate news to the industry's top brokers and agents.

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RISMedia's REAL ESTATE August 2018 99 it is the second biggest reason for hesitation for 17 percent of non- users, behind price (42 percent), according to a recently released report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), "Smart Home, Seamless Life: Unlocking a Culture of Conve- nience." In addition, 56 percent of surveyed individuals stated they would choose encryption to protect their data when creating their own smart home. What technology misuses could lead to privacy or security risks? These are a few of the reported in- stances thus far: 1. GADGETS MAY BE SUSCEPTIBLE TO HACKING Last August, Wired published a story about a British security researcher for MWR Labs, Mark Barnes, who was able to install malware on an Amazon Echo device, turning it into a surveillance device that silently streamed audio to his own server. While newer models cannot be jailbroken this way, Amazon has not released any software to fix the issue with older units. For the typical owner, this may not seem like a significant violation; however, this could lead to another type of home theft in which fraud- sters break into homes looking to steal identifying information via smart home gadgets, leaving little to no evidence of their break-in be- hind. While Barnes installed code for the specific purpose of audio streaming, he clarified that the in- stallation of malware could serve other uses, such as stealing access to a homeowner's Amazon account, installing ransomware or attacking parts of the network. 2. SMART TECHNOLOGY COULD LEAD TO LOCATION-BASED TRACKING Security investigator Brian Krebs recently reported on a privacy vul- nerability for both Google Home and Chromecast—found by Craig Young, a researcher with security firm Trip- wire—that leaks accurate location information about its users. According to Young, attackers can use these Google devices to send a link (which could be anything from a tweet to an advertisement) to the connected user; if the link is clicked and the page left open for about a minute, the attacker is able to ob- tain a location. "The difference between this and a basic IP geolocation is the level of precision," Young said in the article. "For example, if I geo-locate my IP address right now, I get a location that is roughly two miles from my current location at work. For my home internet connection, the IP ge- olocation is only accurate to about three miles. With my attack demo, however, I've been consistently get- ting locations within about 10 me- ters [32 feet] of the device." Google initially told Young they would not be fixing the problem; how- ever, after going to the press about the issue, Young reports that Google was releasing an update in mid-July (at press time) to address the priva- cy leak for both devices. 3. GLITCHES COULD LEAD TO INVASION OF PRIVACY According to local news stations in Portland, Ore., a resident (report- edly named Danielle) received a dis- turbing phone call from one of her husband's employers telling her to shut off her smart home devices. After using Amazon devices through- out her home to control tempera- ture, lighting and security, Danielle was made aware that a private con- versation was accidentally recorded by Amazon's artificial intelligence system, Alexa, and was sent to a number on the family's contact list. Amazon has since reported that the Echo speaker picked up words in Danielle's background conversa- tions that it interpreted as "wake words" for recording and sending audio to a contact; however, an ar- ticle published by the website The Information last July states that Am- azon was considering obtaining re- corded conversations and sending transcripts to developers so they can build more responsive software, making it unclear if these devices automatically record audio without waiting for "wake words." These Vulnerabilities Could Impact Real Estate Smart homes are increasing across the country. According to Statista, a statistics website, the estimated value of the North American smart home market will be $27 billion by 2021. Of course, the vulnerabilities that have cropped up for some users could have an impact on the selling process. For example, some sell- ers have already begun using their security systems as a way to listen in on prospective buyers or watch them as they visit the listed home, regardless of whether local laws prohibit these recording practices. Additionally, if homeowners have devices such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, but do not have secu- rity cameras, how can they be sure that visiting buyers are not access- ing sensitive information through these speakers? While agents al- ways play a role in adding a mea- sure of security by being present during showings, fraudulent activity that is internet-based only, such as obtaining online data through links, will be difficult to identify. RE Liz Dominguez is RISMedia's associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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