Tenants upset over new smart home security upgrades in Madison County

Some tenants at an apartment complex in Madison County are upset after management installed new smart home technology upgrades in their units.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 5:58 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - An invasion of privacy. That’s what some Madison County apartment residents are saying after new smart home upgrades were made to their units, seemingly without their permission.

Stephen Hayton is a concerned tenant at the Colonial Grand at Edgewater apartments who worries the devices have the potential to be hacked, and the information could be shared with third parties. ”I’m a little concerned for a number of reasons,” Hayton said. “They could unlock from the phone app, they could come in while they know you’re gone. They know your patterns for when you’re at your apartment and when you’re not.”

Hayton says residents got an email from property management on Friday, alerting them to the new upgrades from the company, SmartRent smart home technology. Hayton explains what they can do. “Basically, they’re designed to allow for control of remote control of doors, thermostats, lights, other sensors throughout the apartments.”

That means no more physical keys to enter your unit. Instead, you’ll have to enter a code on a pin pad. Hayton is worried he might get locked out one of these days.

Cybersecurity expert, Dr. Matthew Hudnall with the University of Alabama explains why Hayton should be concerned. “If you forget your pin number,” Dr. Hudnall says, “you do run the risk of being able being locked out of your particular location.”

More specific to the Huntsville and Madison County area, Hayton worries the people close by have reason to fly under the radar. “We’ve got folks working on national defense programs, we live right across the street from Redstone Arsenal,” Hayton said. “A lot of folks may not want the apartment or third party knowing their comings and goings.”

Which is exactly what could happen, according to the cybersecurity expert. Problems could follow you even after you move out because your data could leak to new tenants.

Dr. Hudnall says, “Anything that’s connected to the Internet has a chance to be hacked. There’s the chance that the people who come in after them might not reset the usernames and passwords on the systems.”

Dr. Hudnall explains the best thing residents can do when they move out is to do a hard reset on the hub and all devices where you have installed the smart home technology, so the settings can be reset for a new tenant. This will make things factory fresh.

Hudnall adds if there is ever an option to have a two-factor authentication system, utilize it to add extra security to your devices. Finally, Hudnall advises tenants or anyone using smart home technology to come up with a brand new password that hasn’t been used on any of your devices. If you recycle a password and your device gets hacked, cyber criminals will simply use copy and paste to try and crack into all of your accounts.

The resident at the Colonial Grand at Edgewater says before this story aired, management contacted him and said they would let him opt out, and will not be installing the the Smart Home systems in his unit.

We reached out to both SmartRent and Property Managers at Colonial at Edgewater for comment and have not heard back.

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