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For the most part, the smart home revolution has been good. Devices like smart home speakers, smart lights and robot WiFi vacuum cleaners have been great…amazing even.
But there is a dark side to this wireless convenience.
One of the most worrying ones was described by the New York Times in a recent news report. It described how domestic abusers have turned to smart home devices to torment their victims.
These abusers, most of whom are men, take advantage of the fact that their victims don’t know much about configuring or setting up these devices.
Since they are the ones who configured the smart devices, they still retain access even after the couple has split. So they can easily control the devices from their phone.
They use this access to torture their victims from afar. They crank up the smart thermostat, switch on the connected music system to full volume, lock them out of their homes using smart locks and so on.
The worst thing about this behavior is that it goes beyond physical torture. It’s also mental.
According to the NYT, some victims have had to get a mental health assessment after domestic abuse involving smart devices.
How to Protect Yourself
Whether you are on the verge of a split from your partner or your relationship is great it’s always a good idea to be smart home-literate.
It’s not just good for your safety; it allows you to enjoy your smart home just as much as your partner. What’s the point of having an Echo smart speaker or a WiFi thermostat if you don’t get to enjoy its conveniences?
Here are some tips to protect yourself from a vindictive ex if you have smart devices at home.
1. Learn to configure and use them
Don’t let your partner do the entire setup on their own. Smart devices are becoming an integral part of homes.
Something like a smart thermostat is super important as is a smart camera, a WiFi baby monitor or your smart door lock.
It’s like buying a microwave or a TV but have no idea how to operate it.
After you purchase smart devices, be involved in the setup and configuration process.
Most of these devices allow more than one admin. Make sure you have as much control over their operation as your partner.
Then read the manuals and find resources online to help you control and monitor all the devices.
This knowledge will be handy if things go south.
You’ll be able to reconfigure the devices to protect yourself. You also won’t have to go to them for help trying to figure out how the thermostat scheduling thing works or how to turn on Roomba.
2. Change your passwords
In case of a breakup, change all passwords to all smart home access points and accounts such as your Amazon or Google password.
Don’t use any obvious passwords that they can guess such as your birthday, hometown or favorite car. If you can’t come up with a hard-to-crack password, use a password generator app like LastPass.
3. Reset your router and smart devices
Some smart home devices will let you unlink other people’s accounts. If this is possible make sure you do it immediately after a breakup.
But this is not always possible especially if your account is not the primary one associated with the device.
In that case the best option is to reset the device. This will clear all the data, settings and accounts from the device. You can then login again and start afresh with your own account.
You can easily reset a Google Home smart speaker, an Amazon Echo smart speaker, a Roomba vacuum cleaner, a Nest smart thermostat, an Ecobee thermostat and smart light bulbs.
Whichever smart device you have check the manual or online customer support resources for reset instructions.
If you can’t find any, call the company’s customer support.
Don’t forget to also reset your router and change the password.
After you do all this, keep a close eye on your devices for any unusual activity. If you notice that someone is still meddling with them, figure out how they are gaining access. You may need a technician’s help to secure all access points.