Getting Internet-Enabled Device For Your Smart Home; Think Again As They Can Be Used For Domestic Abuse

What if the smart devices in your home start to behave irrationally? What if you hear doorbell ringing, but no one is at the door? Will you suspect a paranormal activity or report the complaint about internet-connected domestic abuse?

A report from New York Times revealed a horrific trend in which smart technology is used as a tool for domestic abuse. People were predicting the downsides of excessive use of smart technology, but sadly, the consequences are already here. Abusers are now using this tech as a medium of psychological warfare, and it is depressing as hell.

According to the report published by the Times, abusers are now using the internet-enabled devices such as thermostats, doorbell, speaker, lights, and other smart technologies to harass their partner psychologically. In an interview with a victim of such internet-connected abuse, the woman explained how she would find turned off air conditioner without her controlling it. Another woman reported that she used to hear doorbell ringing even though no one was there. The most frightening case was of a woman, who spotted that code numbers and the digital clock of her front door were being changed every day without her knowledge. In addition, more than 30 interviews of such victims, their lawyers and 911 emergency responders explained how the smart technology was scaring their clients. According to the study, abusers use smartphones apps that are connected to the internet-connected devices to remotely control the smart objects in the home to scare their ex-partners or to show power. Moreover, the abusers continued to intimidate and confuse those victims even after they left their home.

The sad part about such internet-connected domestic abuse is there is not a single organization that keeps a track of usage of such smart technology. According to a report by McKinsey, in 2017, there were more than 29 million homes registered that had smart technology installed in their homes. On the other hand, it was observed that most of the victims and emergency responders were not aware of how smart technology works, how another person can control their devices, how they can legally fight to stop such domestic abuse. Erica Olsen, the director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, said during the sessions regarding the smart technology and domestic abuse, “People have started to raise their hands in training and ask what to do about this. We don’t want to introduce the idea to the world, but now that it’s become so prevalent, the cat’s out of the bag.”

The most disturbing fact is that even the makers of the smart devices such as Amazon had not received any report regarding their products being used in the abuse situations. Most of the smart devices have reset buttons and option to change home’s Wi-Fi, but the manufacturing companies have no permanent fix yet. In addition, usually, all the smart devices are controlled by one password, which makes them susceptible to hacking. In last year, there were several cases when people reported about losing their Wi-Fi password and in turn unable to enter the house or use the smart devices. Furthermore, lawyers are also not so sure about whom to blame.

When a new, innovative technology comes out in the market, people easily ignore the negative consequences of it and focus on how the tech will make their life easier. For instance, people are so focused on the pros of the internet of things (IoT) that they tend to ignore the cons of it. Therefore, we want to be one step ahead of such threats, we need to be a little bit paranoid and think about the misuse of the trending technology over their outstanding benefits.