UsableSec@Home: Experiential data protection and IT security in Smarthome applications


German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)


Duration: 1.05.2020 - 30.04.2023

Contact: Prof. Dr. Rainer Malaka,  Dr. Karsten Sohr,  Mehrdad Bahrini


Smart home systems are more and more popular; intelligent heating control systems and thermostats, smart TVs, IP cameras as well as alarm systems, which can be conveniently accessed by smart phones or even speech control, promise to ease daily life at home. With these chances, however, risks go along, which concern information security and privacy. It is more important for end users that these devices work and can be easily operated - information security and privacy do not play an equally important role, although users often stress their relevance.

The BMBF-funded R&D project UsableSec@Home aims to resolve this privacy and security paradox. Users shall be enabled to better gauge the security and privacy risks of their smart home. Finally, they can act more competently with their smart home systems. This overall goal shall be achieved by the combination of different HCI methods. Furthermore, these methods shall be founded by legal as well as learning and motivational psychological viewpoints.

Within the frameworks of this project, a simulation of the smart home network and its data flows (between smart home devices, but also with smartphones and the cloud system of the vendor) will be implemented. This simulation is based on augmented reality (AR). In addition, a mobile app will be developed, which allows a user to configure security and privacy settings of her smart home. This configuration tool allows the end users to define privacy-relevant roles for the smart home and to configure smart home router settings. Privacy declarations of smart home vendors will be presented in a comprehensible form, e.g., with the help of animations. Gamification techniques are employed for improving user motivation.

The consortium presents a balanced mix of research partners (Digital Media Lab of the Universität Bremen and the Psychology of Human Technology Interaction Group of the Ruhr University Bochum) as well as the companies neusta mobile solutions GmbH and Certavo GmbH.