smart home appliances

Smart appliances become hacking risk due to poor update policies

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Smart appliances like washing machines and TVs risk losing key features and functionality in as little as two years, new Which? research has revealed.

The firm analysed products including washing machines, dishwashers, televisions, smartphones, printers and smartwatches and found that hardly any brands came close to matching expected lifespans with their smart update policies.

The failure to update their cyber defences also leaves some of the products open to hacking, Which? warned.

Many brands were found to not give any guarantees, meaning consumers were unaware how long their appliance would be supported upon purchase.

Appliances with smart home integration typically cost more than their non-smart counterparts – for example, a smart dishwasher costs on average nearly £300 more upfront, at £746 versus £455

119 product brands were surveyed about their update support policies and it was found that in most cases, the support period was significantly shorter than the time that the product typically lasts.

LG dishwashers, smart TVs and washing machines for example, are all only guaranteed support for two years – and that is from when the product is launched, not when it was bought.

But Which? estimates that televisions typically last on average 6.8 years, washing machines last 11 years and dishwashers 13 years.

Sony also only guarantees updates for its TVs two years after launch, whereas Samsung promises three years of updates.

HP guarantees support for its smart printers for just three years, even though the estimated lifetime for inkjet printers is 13 years. However, it was found to be the only big printer brand that offered any minimum period.

Some companies such as Hisense, which supports smart TVs for 10 years, and Miele, which supports smart dishwashers and washing machines for 10 years, show that it is possible to support products for longer periods of time, Which? said.

It called for the government to introduce new rules that mandate minimum set periods during which manufacturers must support their products.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy, said: “It’s unfair for manufacturers to sell expensive products that should last for many years and then abandon them. This means the product could lose the features that justified the hefty price tag and can potentially create a security risk or add to the electrical waste mountain if it has to be replaced.

“Manufacturers must up their game and provide vital tech updates for their smart products for longer, otherwise the government should consider further intervention in this area, including specifying a minimum number of years that these products have to be supported for.”

Samsung told Which? it supported TVs for at least three years from launch and said it would ensure it fully complied with the new law relating to product security and telecommunications infrastructure.

Sony said: “Sony provides new software updates every two years; the latest software version released is then available for a period of eight years after end of life.”

LG confirmed that it guaranteed support for two years, but added that TVs would “be supported with firmware security updates up to five years from launch”.

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