BYON Gets Put to the Test on My Home Network – Blog 2 of 2

Jeff Hussey

A few years ago, an unfortunate incident resulted in my house burning to the ground, so I had to rebuild it. Let’s call it House v2.0.

Like most newer software versions, House v2.0 had some upgrades, like the home automation system. I decided to install a Mac-based system developed by a company called Savant. It used their proprietary controller to interface with the various components of Home 2.0 including thermostats, security system, and A/V components with a Mac Mini running the control software. Conveniently, the whole thing is controlled by an iOS app.

Everything was just fine until recently, when I had some guests for a few days. I’d been traveling and hadn’t yet needed to turn on the air conditioning before I left. Surprisingly (I live in Seattle), while I was gone, the weather turned quite warm, and my guests were left sweating it out, but without a sandy beach to enjoy. Finally, they were able to locate an iPad, and I was able to walk them through the app so they could “chill out.” That’s when it struck me how ridiculous it was that I couldn’t monitor and adjust the system remotely.

When I called the installer, they informed me that I’d need to upgrade the entire system and subscribe to a costly AWS cloud-based service, just for remote functionality! Furthermore, that discussion with the vendor led to another revelation. Anybody could access my Mac Mini using Teamviewer and an easily memorable three-character username and password. Shocked and dismayed to discover a massive security hole in my own home, I took matters into my own hands and put our BYON concept to the test.

I installed a cloud-based orchestration engine and HIPrelay, and spun them up in AWS. Then, I plugged a HIPswitch home into my network (just as I would with any other device), and logged into the engine to create my own policy between my phone and the HIPswitch through the HIPrelay. Shazam! I had remote access to my home technology from anywhere. The best part is, I had access, but nobody else could simply memorize a three-digit username and password to get in.

The Bottom Line

How much money did I save by not having to further upgrade my new system and subscribing to a costly service? About $4K and $200/year.

How much time did I save by implementing such a simple solution, rather than relying on the expertise of a specialist? $1500

I likely saved a lot of time and money by taking a BYON approach. Now, scale that simple solution from my home to the large-scale operations of a global manufacturing business or energy company, and the savings in cost and production time should increase exponentially.

So … the next time you’re at home listening to Tom Petty on your fully integrated A/V system with home security, remember “Even the Losers get lucky sometimes,” so make sure your network is secure enough to tell any potential hacker or invader, “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”