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Research shows hackers can bring down a power grid using smart home appliances

Posted at 10:18 AM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 10:08:31-05

When it comes to smart home appliances, Michele Kaveh says simpler it is, the better.

“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” said Kaveh.

She loves her nest thermostat, which lets her control her A/C right from her phone.

“I can be out at a restaurant and say, 'Oh, I forgot' and you know adjust the temperature from wherever,” said Kaveh.

And while convenient, researchers at Princeton University say the growing number of those internet connected home devices, if hacked, can cause a massive blackout to a power grid.

“If any foreign power got into our Nest controllers or Honeywell controllers, our light systems or whatever they are, they can potentially turn on millions of these systems at once and potentially overload the grid,” said WPTV Internet Security Expert Alan Crowetz, at

Florida Power & Light released this statement from spokesperson Richard Beltran about a possible hack on smart appliances:

“While we can’t speak to the cybersecurity of third-party in-home technology, it is important to know that we have robust monitoring and response capabilities in place for our energy grid and related networks. Beyond the mandatory cybersecurity standards the energy industry must meet, we have implemented additional controls and defenses, and work closely with the intelligence and law enforcement communities to proactively monitor and protect our systems.”  

Crowetz said even if your specific device is not the target, you could be impacted if it was hacked.

“It slows your house down, so your internet can slow down, it could rack up electric charges,” said Crowetz.

And in many cases like Michele’s, her Nest also controls her cameras, making a possible hack even scarier.

“Someone could be in your network for months and most residential users would have no idea,” added Crowetz.

But Crowetz is not immune to smart home fever. He knows it comes with a risk, but says the way to minimize that risk is by choosing an IT company that’s new to appliances, not the other way around.

“If you get your smart refrigerator in your house, realize it’s an appliance company trying to learn IT,” he said.

Michele hopes to continue adding to her smart home hoping the technology continues to get more secure.

“People are going to do what they will with knowledge, unfortunately, sometimes that means people do bad things and hopefully I won’t be a victim of that,” she said.

Crowetz also said it’s important to change the default username and password when you set up your device or smart appliance, invest in a firewall to put at home and make sure to have someone knowledgeable set up your smart appliance.