Understanding and Improving Security and Privacy in Multi-User Smart Homes: A Design Exploration and In-Home User Study


Eric Zeng and Franziska Roesner, University of Washington


Smart homes face unique security, privacy, and usability challenges because they are multi-user, multi-device systems that affect the physical environment of all inhabitants of the home. Current smart home technology is often not well designed for multiple users, sometimes lacking basic access control and other affordances for making the system intelligible and accessible for all users. While prior work has shed light on the problems and needs of smart home users, it is not obvious how to design and build solutions. Such questions have certainly not been answered for challenging adversarial situations (e.g., domestic abuse), but we observe that they have not even been answered for tensions in otherwise functional, non-adversarial households. In this work, we explore user behaviors, needs, and possible solutions to multi-user security and privacy issues in generally non-adversarial smart homes. Based on design principles grounded in prior work, we built a prototype smart home app that includes concrete features such as location-based access controls, supervisory access controls, and activity notifications, and we tested our prototype though a month-long in-home user study with seven households. From the results of the user study, we re-evaluate our initial design principles, we surface user feedback on security and privacy features, and we identify challenges and recommendations for smart home designers and researchers.

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@inproceedings {236360,
author = {Eric Zeng and Franziska Roesner},
title = {Understanding and Improving Security and Privacy in {Multi-User} Smart Homes: A Design Exploration and {In-Home} User Study},
booktitle = {28th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-939133-06-9},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
pages = {159--176},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity19/presentation/zeng},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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