Bad-News Bulbs - Why Hackers Can Infiltrate Data through Web-Enabled Lighting Systems

Jan. 11, 2016
Could a lighting system give hackers what they need to steal your personal information - and more? The National Lighting Bureau and EdisonReport say "yes" in this video.

Could a lighting system give hackers what they need to steal your personal information - and more? Depending on the design of the specific system involved and the quality of the installation, it’s possible, according to a panel of lighting and cybersecurity experts assembled by the National Lighting Bureau (NLB), Shepherdstown, W. Va., for its Annual Lighting Forum. This year’s Forum, entitled “Shedding Light on Light,” is produced in conjunction with the Randy Reed of the EdisonReport and NLB's John Bachner.

In the video, one of the panelists, Mark Lien, NLB vice chair and Osram Sylvania’s government and industry relations director, said hackers have gained control of the door locks of homes and hotel rooms located hundreds of miles away. He also discussed WiFi-enabled light-emitting diode (LED) lamps that hackers can use to identify a home’s router password and then gain access to just about anything else connected to the home’s network. Lien added that some new products have been developed specifically for negative purposes, such as an LED lamp that picks up confidential conversations that it then converts to text that it live tweets to those signed on.

Bureau Chair James Yorgey, Lutron Electronics Co.’s technical applications manager, discussed some of the new approaches being used to enhance cybersecurity. In the case of his company, for example, lighting controls are treated as a separate system that cannot be used as a pathway to other building systems and the systems they are connected to, such as point-of-sale systems where customers’ credit-card information often is stored. He commented that approaches such as that create new roles and responsibilities for electrical contractors. Whereas, historically, they focused almost exclusively on electrical systems, today’s best-equipped contractors also are responsible for a building’s electronic infrastructure.

Marty Riesberg, director of curriculum development for the Electrical Training Alliance, said meeting the cybersecurity challenge requires more reliance on teamwork than ever before, because those responsible for a building’s lighting system need to communicate directly with their counterparts involved with HVAC design, because of their shared responsibility for the IT systems involved.