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Tonight: Can Crooks Hack Your Home?

Can Crooks Hack Your Home? - ITV at 7:30pm on Thursday 24th August Photo: ITV/Tonight

TONIGHT reporter Georgie Barrat investigates how hackers can put our security at risk.

In 2017 the average UK home is now more connected than ever before. Many of us own devices which are Wi-Fi enabled, and connect straight to the internet - from smart TVs and baby monitors, to smoke alarms and fridges.

Collectively these bits of technology are known as the Internet of Things, and by 2025 it’s predicted that there will be over 75 billion of them in the world - which equates to at least 10 for every home.

The average UK home is now more connected than ever before Credit: ITV/Tonight

But while living in tech-savvy houses will bring plenty of benefits there’s also growing concern about the security of the things we’re installing in our homes. James Lyne, Global Head of Security at Sophos, told TONIGHT:

“These devices do represent a significant new opportunity for attackers to get into your network, to use these devices to steal information. The sharks have smelt the blood in the water. They’re circling. We’re really just seeing the beginning of their interest.”

– James Lyne, Global Head of Security at Sophos

A poll of 2000 people specially commissioned for TONIGHT found one in five have been targeted by hackers in the past. And statistics show that there were more computer misuse crimes in the UK last year than those reported for criminal damage or violence against a person.

The Woodhouse family in Morecambe enjoy using technology and have a number of connected devices in their home. With the family’s permission, we invited a team of tech industry experts to target their home using the same techniques real hackers would.

The Woodhouse's take part in a hacking experiment on Tonight - ITV at 7:30pm on Thursday 24th August Credit: ITV/Tonight

In a matter of days, the experts were able to hack into their Wi-Fi network. This then enabled them to hack into a baby monitor to view the live camera feed, and listen through the baby monitor microphone.

They were also able to control the content on the family’s television screen, by manipulating the family’s streaming device. Professor Mark West, Information Security Lead at Roke, explains the best way to keep your Wi-Fi network secure:

“As you add more devices into a home there’s greater range of things that hackers can go and target and they only need to find one weak spot to be able to get in... I think the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves from cyber-crime is look after passwords.”

– Professor Mark West, Information Security Lead at Roke
Professor Mark West, Information Security Lead at Roke led the experiment Credit: ITV/Tonight

And yet many of us don’t look after our passwords. In our exclusive TONIGHT poll over 50% of people said they only change passwords when prompted or worse still, never.

It’s not just devices inside the house that can be hacked. In the programme, Georgie Barrat meets Carl and Rachel Jones from the West Midlands who became victims of hacking in February this year, when their 7 seater family car was stolen straight off their drive.

Undeterred by the family’s security cameras, the thieves used a hacking device to target the car’s keyless ignition. CCTV footage owned by the family shows how the thieves, armed with weapons, managed to steal the car in a matter of seconds.

As we become increasingly connected there are now growing calls for manufacturers to do more to make sure their products are secure. Dr Ian Levy, Technical Director at the National Cyber Security Centre, told TONIGHT:

“Our job, in the National Cyber Security Centre is to try and incentivise industry to build better security in by default, so that when you go buy something you don’t have to worry too much about how you make it secure once you get it home. We want a government kite mark, effectively, that says, if you buy this, it’s basically secure, and it’ll be looked after for the life of the product.”

– Dr Ian Levy, Technical Director at the National Cyber Security Centre
Georgie Barrat leads the investigation into, Can Crooks Hack Your Home? ITV - Thursday 24th August at 7:30pm Credit: ITV/Tonight

And it seems that many consumers support this idea. In our TONIGHT poll 84% said they want manufacturers to certify their connected products are secure. But there’s also plenty we can do ourselves to ensure we don’t become the victims of home hacking. Follow these top tips to stay secure:

  • Make sure your passwords are complex. Avoid dictionary words which are easier for hackers to crack. Instead, use a mixture of upper and lower case letters, and numbers.
  • Make sure your passwords are long. For example, a password made of 8 random upper case letters (with no dictionary words) can be hacked in a matter of days using password-cracking computer programmes. But if you add just 2 extra characters, to make it 10 characters long, it will be 676 times harder to crack, taking a computer programme years instead of days to solve.
  • Avoid re-using the same password for different accounts or devices. If a hacker cracks one of your passwords, they can try the same password on other devices or online accounts. Keep your individual accounts/devices more secure by using a different password for each of them.
  • Always install updates. Companies sometimes release software updates to fix vulnerabilities, so you should always try to install updates as soon as they are available for any of your devices, apps or programmes. This includes ensuring that you have anti-virus software installed on your computer, and keeping it up to date.
  • Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request. Whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email, remember that fraudsters will often pose as a real person or organisation. Fraudsters can also use ransom threats, and apply pressure on you to act quickly. If you are concerned, stop and talk to someone you trust, or call the Action Fraud advice line.
  • Be careful when using public Wi-Fi and shared computers. Avoid connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. If you do use Wi-Fi on a shared network, avoid logging into emails/online banking etc.
  • If you think that you have been a victim of hacking or fraud, report it. Contact Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime.

See more at 7:30pm on Thursday 24th August on ITV as Georgie Barrat investigates Can Crooks Hack Your Home?

Let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #HackedHome

Websites that may be of interest:

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime.

Get Safe Online provides unbiased, factual and easy-to-understand information about online safety, including: installing antivirus software and updates, and avoiding ransomware and scams.

The National Cyber Security Centre. is a government organisation that provides advice and support for the public and private sector on how to avoid security threats.

Victim Support is a national charity for people affected by crime in England and Wales, including fraud and cyber crime.

Which? provides consumer advice and expert reviews, including articles relating to hacking and cyber crime:

The “Internet of Things” Explained

Five Ways to Protect Your Smart Home from Hackers