Which? warns of uncertainty over smart appliance security updates

8 Jun 2020

Image: © Igor Kardasov/Stock.adobe.com

Which? said that few smart appliance manufacturers have set out policies explaining how long they plan to offer security and software updates.

UK consumer organisation Which? has warned that some smart appliances could lose access to security updates long before the products need to be replaced.

The organisation surveyed 255 consumers and found that 69pc expect a smart appliance to last as long, if not longer, than a traditional appliance.

However, Which? said that there is “industry-wide confusion” over software update policies on smart appliances, which could leave consumers with an unprotected device in years to come.

Smart appliance updates

Which? said that products such as dishwashers, washing machines and fridge-freezers are typically expected to last around 10 or 11 years before needing replacement.

“But when you add software into the mix, these products could have a much shorter life – at least in terms of their full functionality,” the organisation added.

Which? warned that when software updates are no longer supported for smart appliances, it leaves the devices at risk of being hacked. It added that it’s important “your protection doesn’t stop before your appliance packs in for good”.

The organisation reached out to all of the major smart home appliance manufacturers to find out how long they intend to provide security updates for their connected products. Only one definitively said how many years consumers can expect security support.

Company policies

The companies that Which? reached out to include Beko, BSH (which includes Bosch, Neff and Siemens products), Hoover, LG, Miele, Samsung and Whirlpool Group (which manufactures Hotpoint, Indesit and Whirlpool appliances).

The majority of the companies said that security support will last for “the life of the product”, but few were willing to elaborate, according to Which?

Samsung confirmed that it would provide a minimum of two years of updates, while Beko confirmed a maximum of 10 years. Miele promised exactly 10 years of updates for its smart appliances.

“Without a clear policy, it’s left up to manufacturers to decide how long the product’s lifetime can be,” Which? said. “We’ve seen manufacturers withdraw support for working products before after promising lifetime updates, such as when TomTom withdrew support for older sat-navs in January 2018.”

According to Which?, no brand that it spoke to had published a length-of-update policy for consumers to find at the time that the organisation published its findings.

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Until manufacturers are clear and upfront about how long they will support these products for, consumers could be better off avoiding smart appliances.”

Hitchins added that consumers may “stick to more reliable and significantly cheaper non-smart alternatives” in the meantime.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic