PhotoWith cybersecurity at the forefront of many consumers’ minds, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio discovered a new smart device that could be vulnerable to attacks: light bulbs. 

“Your smart bulb could come equipped with infrared capabilities, and most users don’t know that the invisible wave spectrum can be controlled,” said researcher Murtuza Jadliwala. “Any data can be stolen: texts or images. Anything that is stored in a computer.” 

Lined up to be one of this season’s most popular holiday gifts, the researchers want to urge consumers to be aware of potential threats and understand how these smart devices work so they can take the necessary steps to protect their data. 

Just like a computer

The researchers explained that smart light bulbs function in one of two main ways: by bypassing WiFi and connecting to Bluetooth, which many refer to as a smart home hub, or by connecting to a personal WiFi connection, which consumers typically use to connect their other personal devices that store their data, like cell phones, tablets, or laptops. 

Ultimately, the smart home hub option is better for avoiding data hacks, as connecting the smart light bulb to a personal WiFi network can enable hackers to use that network to steal data from other devices.

“Think of the bulb as another computer,” said Jadliwala. “These bulbs are now poised to become a much more attractive target for exploitation even though they have very simple chips.” 

As this technology continues to get more complex, the researchers hope that companies do their part to ensure these devices are secure for consumers and safe to use in conjunction with other smart devices. 

Understanding the risk of smart devices

Amazon came under fire earlier this year following an investigation that revealed its employees were listening in on consumers’ requests to their Alexa devices. Revelations like these make it more important than ever for consumers to stay up-to-date on how these devices can create security problems. 

As smart devices become more popular in the home, researchers found that they could be a source of security weakness for many consumers. Security experts are urging consumers to take precautions when it comes to smart home devices like refrigerators or thermostats. 

They encourage consumers to avoid smart devices that don’t require authentication of any kind, as having a unique username and password are key to ensuring that data remains secure. 

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