Examining Consumer Reviews to Understand Security and Privacy Issues in the Market of Smart Home Devices


Swaathi Vetrivel, Veerle van Harten, Carlos H. Gañán, Michel van Eeten, and Simon Parkin, Delft University of Technology


Despite growing evidence that consumers care about secure Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, relevant security and privacy-related information is unavailable at the point of purchase. While initiatives such as security labels create new avenues to signal a device's security and privacy posture, we analyse an existing avenue for such market signals - customer reviews. We investigate whether and to what extent customer reviews of IoT devices with well-known security and privacy issues reflect these concerns. We examine 83,686 reviews of four IoT device types commonly infected with Mirai across all Amazon websites in English. We perform topic modelling to group the reviews and conduct manual coding to understand (i) the prevalence of security and privacy issues and (ii) the themes that these issues articulate. Overall, around one in ten reviews (9.8%) mentions security and privacy issues; the geographical distribution varies across the six countries. We distil references to security and privacy into seven themes and identify two orthogonal themes: reviews written in technical language and those that mention friction with security steps. Our results thus highlight the value of the already existing avenue of customer reviews. We draw on these results to make recommendations and identify future research directions.

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@inproceedings {285509,
author = {Swaathi Vetrivel and Veerle van Harten and Carlos H. Ganan and Michel van Eeten and Simon Parkin},
title = {Examining Consumer Reviews to Understand Security and Privacy Issues in the Market of Smart Home Devices},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {1523--1540},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity23/presentation/vetrivel},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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