Do the words Christmas Carol conjure up the great work by Charles Dickens?
Don’t get more wrong because Charles wrote some good stuff that was eventually turned into movies like A Christmas Carol aka Scrooge and Oliver Twist.
However, when I think of Christmas Carols I automatically think Christmas music and there are many songs that I can’t wait to listen to and sing along with starting Thanksgiving day until New Year’s Eve.
Below is a list of my top 5 favorite Christmas Carols or Christmas Songs, please let me know if any of them are yours as well.
Someday at Christmas sung by Stevie Wonder
My Favorite Things sung by Luther Vandross
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus sung by The Jackson Five
Silent Night sung by The Temptations
Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC
What are your top 5 favorite Christmas Carols or Christmas Songs?
Eleven days and counting…have you finished all of your Christmas shopping yet? Or are you like me and haven’t even started!
If you are finished shopping but still need a few stocking stuffers or Grab Bag Giveaways for an office holiday party, and your money is funny then I suggest you head over to your local Five Below for a few of these great techie tools.
A few weeks ago, at the suggestion of a fellow Social Media Diva, I stopped in at the Five Below on Route 202 and found these items which are perfect for anyone especially the teens, tweens and techies in your life.
Virtual Reality is hot this year so I picked up an Electronic Necessities VR Mask which can be used for watching movies, playing games and it even comes with a coupon for FREE downloadable apps.
Convert your phone into a VR Cinema instantly
Fits 3.5” – 6” Smartphone Screens
Features audio ports, suction pad and adjustable head strap
Bass Jaxx Skyline Ultra Slim Speaker
High quality acoustic and ultra slim speaker
Requires 3-AAA Batteries
Auxiliary Jack for Smartphones/IPads/IPods
Bass Jaxx Zeno Portable Stereo Speaker
Glo Blue LED
Built in Auxiliary Jack
Works with iPhone and Android phones
Youse Dual USB Wall Charger
Foldable Wall Plug
Blue LED Indicator
Universal USB Charger
Universal Smartphone Holder
Clip-on-Grip holds the holder firmly on a table
Compatible with most Smartphones up to 3.5” wide
Available in Black and Pink
Universal Smartphone Wallet Case
Fits up to Iphone 6/6s and Galaxy S7
Faux Suede with tassel and slots for ID and currency and zippered coin pouch
Electronic Necessities Rechargeable Power Bank
Micro and USB Port that works with Smartphones, tablets and more
Youse Mini Microphone for Smartphones and Tablets
Records at 12 db louder than the microphones built into Smartphones and tablets
Plug in and use your favorite recording app
Use for Karaoke and more
10 Pack Soft Rubber Tip Stylus Pens
Use with all Touch Screens
Spektrum 6’ Smart LED Charging Cable
Sync and Charge Micro USB Cable
Charge from your USB Car or Wall Charger
Micro USB Cable with Smart LED Indicator light
Youse Selfie Stick
Built-in shutter button
12”-39” Telescopic Handle
Connects using a 3.5 mm audio jack
Works with all Smartphones
10” Tablet/PC Bag with Shoulder Strap
I am rebranding my blog, not only changing the name from DeDivahDeals to DelBlogger but also with a new website design effective January 1st.
To promote and advertise the change as well as to kick off the new year, I will be hosting weekly giveaways, so stay tuned as these items are going to be part of one.
Chime in, which item would you like to get in your stocking?
Disclosure: I was provided with a Google Pixel Smartphone from Verizon in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.
How many of you remember when the car phone – aka- mobile phone – aka – cell phone turned into a Smartphone and using it to make actual phones calls has become almost obsolete?
Just text me…snap a selfie…check in on Foursquare…read an email…check Social Media stats…Facebook…Twitter…Instagram…read my blog…Hello Siri GPS navigation… uploading videos…Livestreaming…Snapchatting and of course the constant picture taking of food, friends, and fun!
So when I had the opportunity to review this new Google Pixel Smartphone I decided not to use it as a phone for making calls or for checking into social media or even updating my blog but solely as a camera instead.
“Content is King” and “Images are the Queen” so it is vital especially as a blogger to capture attention grabbing, eye popping pictures and I have to admit this Google Pixel exceeded my expectations!
Fruit under Fluorescent Light
I decided to leave my Nikon Coolpix at home when I headed to the Summit Marina last weekend to capture these amazing pictures overlooking the C&D Canal.
These photos were in no way touched up nor did I add any filters, I just emailed and uploaded them to my laptop. With the Google Pixel you can get unlimited storage of all your photos and videos free in Google Photos which is definitely great for leaving your legacy in the cloud!
You may remember last month when hubby and I came here to the Marina for another photo shot and the weather was still warm and gorgeous. However, this time, I was there alone and it was cold so I didn’t stay long, besides those Turkey Vultures didn’t seem too happy to have me around.
The Google Pixel Smartphone is smaller and lighter than my Samsung Galaxy Note 5, however, the pictures are bigger and brighter. There are actually two versions of this Android smartphone, the Google Pixel and the Google Pixel XL
I loved that the Google Pixel weighs only 5.04 oz and the 5 inch screen was the perfect size for viewing VR apps without needing my glasses. I had recently purchased a Virtual Reality Headset so I downloaded a few free VR apps from the Google Play Store.
The Google Pixel sat nicely in the headset and because it’s lightweight it was great for walking around “taking a tour of NYC” as well as riding a virtual rollercoaster. The display on this smartphone is bright, sharp and with the vivid colors, watching some of the VR movies was like being in my own private screening room!
The battery life on the Google Pixel is amazing which is very important especially as a blogger who may need to cover an event lasting hours. Not having to search for and then stand next to a power outlet was great for capturing these pictures at a Girls Night In event hosted by my friend Roxie in Middletown.
Other great photo features on the Google Pixel include the ability to just double tap a button to turn on the camera and a double twist to change to selfie mode. Videos can also be shot in 4K resolution and the powerful speakers were perfect for listening to music and watching DIY videos on YouTube.
There are also many other features that the Google Pixel is equipped with and below are just a few of them. However, if you are looking for an Android Smartphone with awesome visuals then you need to head over to a Verizon store and pick one up!
Oh, and the Bright Light Flashlight is perfect when navigating a parking lot or a college campus at night. Speaking of college, you know that I had to take a selfie with my son before he headed back to his after Thanksgiving!
Would you purchase a Google Pixel or Google Pixel XL?
Google Pixel Specs
FHD AMOLED at 441ppi
2.5D Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4
5.6 x 2.7 x 0.2 ~ 0.3 inches
143.8 x 69.5 x 7.3 ~ 8.5 mm
2,770 mAh battery
Standby time (LTE): up to 19 days
Talk time (3g/WCDMA): up to 26 hours
Internet use time (Wi-Fi): up to 13 hours
Internet use time (LTE): up to 13 hours
Video playback: up to 13 hours
Audio playback (via headset): up to 110 hours
Fast charging: up to 7 hours of use from only 15 minutes of charging
Yes, ladies and gents, it’s that time of the year…time to rekindle those favorite family traditions the ones you remember from when your kids were younger. No, I am not talking about tree decorating, ice skating and drinking hot chocolate in front of a fireplace, although that’s fun too! I’m talking about eating foods that you know you shouldn’t and blaming it on the holidays!
The first week of December when the boys were younger, we would spend hours in the kitchen baking cookies, brownies and making Gingerbread Houses, but our my all time favorite sweet treat was Crock Pot Peanut Clusters.
Malik, our youngest is away at college and Tayair who is working no longer have an interest in spending time in the kitchen baking, so it’s just me and the Crock Pot.
You may remember when I first posted this recipe on my blog, I had made a few batches of these Slow Cooked Peanut Clusters to give to the nurses at the Helen Graham Cancer Center when hubby was undergoing chemo.
Crock Pot Peanut Clusters make great gifts Very simple to make with just a few ingredients, these Crock Pot Peanut Clusters make great gifts for anyone on your “Secret Santa” list, a co-worker, teacher or the next door neighbor.
Ingredients – Yields 2 dozen
16 oz Jar Unsalted Dry Roasted Peanuts
11.5 oz package of Milk Chocolate Chips
Peanuts and Chocolate Chips
Crock Pot Peanut Clusters are an easy breezy treat for anytime of the year but because it takes less than 2 hours to make you can get some holiday decorations done while they slow cook.
For easier cleanup, first coat the inside of the Crock Pot with a Butter Cooking Spray.
Pour in half the jar of peanuts followed by half a bag of chocolate chips.
Pour in the remaining peanuts and chips
Cover and cook on low for 1 hour, however, depending on the style Crock Pot you may need to add more time but check it after the first hour to ensure the chocolate is not burning.
Once the chocolate has softened, use a wooden spoon to stir, thoroughly mixing in the peanuts.
Use a large spoon or an Ice Cream scoop to dollop out medium size clusters onto a non-stick baking sheet or a platter covered with Parchment Paper.
Put Peanut Clusters into the refrigerator for an hour allowing them to to harden.
Remove and package in a resealable bags or containers to be given as gifts or as tasty treats for the family.
Chime in: What is your favorite Holiday Sweet Treat?
Okay, this may sound familiar if you work outside of the home.
You wake up before the crack of dawn, stumble out of bed and head to the bathroom to *SSS, get dressed, grab a cup of coffee and a breakfast bar or a smoothie only to sit in traffic for the next 30-60 minutes.
You get to work at 9:00 am, head to your cubicle or office, turn on your laptop, read and respond to emails then catch up on a bit of the morning news.
After about an hour, you get up to get another cup of coffee either from the pantry or from the downstairs cafeteria and as you head back to your desk you run into a colleague. There you stand and talk about latest industry news, the subject of the afternoon conference call or perhaps the score from the previous night’s game or results from a dancing show.
Back at your desk, you spend the next two hours heads down responding to email messages both business and personal, perhaps returning calls from the previous day’s voicemail. You then begin to think about leaving the office to grab a bite to eat or stay in for that all important conference call at 2…maybe just hitting up the vending machine for a bag of chips and a soda.
Naw, instead you decide to run to the local Wawa or Deli to grab a sandwich and a bottle juice making it back just in time to pickup your printouts from the copier room then dialing into that “all hands” conference call which would have been better served in a group email.
Now the work day is done or is it?
Just because you’re in the office for eight hours doesn’t mean you’re being productive for all of them, even the best of us can probably admit that we actually spend only two to three hours doing actual work. Therefore, it is quite possible that a five hour work day might be better for all of us. Getting to work at 8 and leaving at 1 or flexing in at 9 and leaving at 2 might make us more productive and focused.
Not all professions can implement at 5 hour work day, but those that could would probably have happier employees which would make them more productive. A five-hour workday enforces time management causing workers to prioritize high-value activities.
Just as with a regular 8 hour shift there will be times when you want or need to work an extra-long day. However, when you can leave the office at 1 p.m. to go to a doctor’s appointment or pick your kids up from school, work isn’t separate from life; it’s a better part of it. Having more time to pursue your passions, nurture your relationships and staying active will gives you more energy, emotionally, psychologically and physically.
Chime in: Do you think having more free time in the afternoons to get personal chores and errands done would make you more productive in the office?
Could “living for the weekend” become an obsolete phrase?
*In case you didn’t know SSS means shit, shower and shave!
On a recent Podcast, “Social Media Sunday with the Delaware Blogger” we discussed Twitter for Small Business because many small business owners still don’t understand why they should be on this social media platform.
I actually had a client say that Twitter was dying and that it was old fashioned…not sure why he thought this, but I invited him to listen in to the Podcast in hopes of changing his mind.
Not only do I, but several other social media strategists feel that Twitter is the #1 social network because it is truly social. On Facebook, your are limited to an established circle of friends and family. But everyone is fair game on Twitter. I can jump in and out of all sorts of conversations with people I’ve never met—I’ve made connections with my best blogging sponsors this way.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a microblogging network of real time posts that are limited to 140 characters or less, however, at one time they wanted to change it to make it unlimited characters and Twitterverse lost it’s mind. What they did do was change the algorithm so that images do not count as part of the 140 characters.
Twitter’s demographic is geared more towards the younger generations, however, that doesn’t mean that the older generation are not using it as a matter of fact, Twitter is my favorite social media platform.
Unfortunately, many boomers and seniors are using it in the wrong way and I won’t mention any names. (DT)
You may remember that I once said that, “Twitter are the friends that you wished you had in high school” versus Facebook which are like the friends you did have in high school.
I made that statement because, you can establish relationships and followings with the really cool kids, not to say that the people you connect with on Facebook aren’t cool, they just aren’t the really cool tweeps. For example, I remember my first celebrity follower was Kimora Lee Simmons, she started following me because I had made a comment about a beautiful family photo that she had posted online.
I was so over the top excited that little ole me from Middletown, DE was recognized and followed by a real celebrity. Unfortunately, it was short lived because after I posted one of her purses that I bought from a local discount store she inquired as to where I got it. I responded but the next thing I knew, the store was no longer carrying them!
The power of Twitter and network marketing was solidified for me on the day, I guess she didn’t appreciate having knock offs of her bags being sold at discount.
You don’t have to be uber famous like Kimora Lee Simmons, Justin Bieber or even Ellen Degeneres to get a decent following and if you’re a small business or brand, Twitter will actually help bring in new customers. It has been proven that 64% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from brands that they follow on Twitter.
Steps to set up a Twitter account:
Sign up with your real name, your email address and a password.
Choose Your Twitter Name: Your Twitter name is limited to a maximum of 15 characters. Although Twitter names are not case-sensitive, Twitter will save the name exactly as you enter it when you create your Twitter profile. So even though you can create your profile with “DelawareBlogger” and be listed as @DelwareBlogger, your Twitter fans will be able to find you by using @delawareblogger. Avoid names with numbers, uncommon abbreviations and names that are difficult to remember. Keep mobile users in mind and avoid underscores, which require extra steps to type in on mobile phones.
You can skip interests and importing address books because you may want to wait and get comfortable before you start advertising your profile.
Check your email to confirm your email address that will be sent to the email address that you provided.
Upload Your Picture: It’s important to change the default picture to show others that you are a real person and not a spambot and definitely not that ‘egg’ which is the generic profile pic.
Fill in your Location – If you are a local business put the town/city, county/state and then country. Enter your website/blog address, and your bio. Fill in details about yourself or your company, use keywords wisely as part of your description especially for SEO.
Create a background and design your page, usa Canva.com or Picmonkey.com which both have templates to make it easier.
When you send your first tweet make sure to introduce your brand or business explaining briefly what you aim to give followers through your tweets. Create a mission statement and remember no selling just yet, wait to build an audience/following.
How to get Twitter Followers – What is your mission statement ~ Who is your ideal customer ~ Tell them why they should follow you
When using Twitter for business it’s important to ensure that you are getting followers that are relevant to your topic, so you need to balance out your activities to get those numbers versus activities aimed at just getting mass quantities of followers. Remember the SNL skit with the Coneheads, they were an alien family that just wanted to get mass quantities of everything.
A hashtag, or the pound symbol (#) is a way to connect or search others with the same interests. Type a hashtag keyword in the search bar to discover content and accounts based on your interests. For example, on twitter if you type #Podcast, you will be presented with tweets about Podcasts or anything anyone has ever tweeted about using the hashtag Podcast (#Podcast). And this ladies and gents is what makes it so very easy for you to find and connect with your targeted audience.
Whether you are looking for stay at home moms, which is hashtag #SAHM, millennials #millennial or a blogger in Delaware #DelawareBlogger, putting the hashtag in front of the word or phrase when searching on Twitter will provide you with an avalanche of people to follow which can increase your audience exponentially once you start following them.
Participate in #FollowFriday or any other trending hashtag topics that may be relevant to you, your product or service. Same with popular events, movies or television shows as most networks are now placing their hashtag at the bottom corners of the screen which is how I find and follow #HAHN and #TWD viewers.
Check the trending topics on the left side of the screen, if they are relevant to your niche, join in share, comment and retweet which may get you a number of followers that are interested in the same trending topics.
Twitter chats is where a group of Twitter users meet at a pre-determined time to discuss a certain topic, using a designated hashtag ) for each tweet contributed. A host or moderator will pose questions (designated with Q1, Q2…) to prompt responses from participants (using A1, A2…) and encourage interaction among the group. Chats typically last an hour. You can find twitter chats on websites like TwitterChat.com or TWUBS.com where you can also host Twitter Chats and they are great if you are promoting a new product, project or event.
There are awesome places to connect with others including celebs especially if they are promoting a new project like Oprah and Tyler Perry. When the OWN network went live followers were chatting up a storm and yes, I have been retweeted by both Oprah and Tyler. I think my most famous follower now is Dick Gregory.
“ Twitter Chats are business networking events – minus the dress code”
Twitter is less focused on “What you are doing” like on Facebook and more about “What’s going on around you in the world”.
What Should I Publish on Twitter?
Always share good content that is worth sharing and retweeting, use humor too, remember to tweet more than just your product or service
When you share something that someone else wrote, don’t just tell people why it’s great and share the link, also include the Twitter handle of the author. This will get you right on their radar as someone who supports and appreciates their work. That’s the first step to building a relationship.
If someone writes about you, @mention them when you share the link. This is especially important if you have a good following that will also retweet and engage with the article.
Use Twitter to follow up and respond to others.
Join Twitter Chats to get more followers and offer insights.
Add photos and images to your tweets.
The key to being successful on Twitter is sharing the right information, whether it’s your own links or other content.
“Do what you do best then link to the rest!”
Use a timesaving tool to schedule your tweets. Free and low-cost tools like Hootsuite allow you to schedule your tweets in advance so that you maintain a consistent flow of content, while saving time.
Make sure you are following your customers.
Reward people who retweet you or offer Twitter-only specials.
Retweet and thank those who follow and retweet you.
Multitask and tweet while commuting to and from work on the bus or train. Tweet while on the bike at the gym, during commercials of your favorite shows; tweet while in the waiting room for the doctor.
Tweet inspirational quotes. Quotes tend to see higher engagement on Twitter because people enjoy reading them and sharing with others.
Communicate with your followers, answer their questions, respond to their positive/negative feedback and make sure that they can trust the information that you’re providing them.
Follow users who follow your followers as they are likely to share similar interests so you may consider following them as well.
Follow the accounts recommended by Twitter. In the #Discover section of your dashboard, Twitter recommends “Who to follow” for your account.
Direct Message send a direct message to @abccompany and request for a follow back so that you can connect under the radar or take it offline to help or assist or work with influencers and potential vendors and customers
You don’t have to read every tweet on your timeline.
Put your twitter handle everywhere including, your website, Your email signature, Your email newsletter, Your business cards, Signs posted in your business, Paperwork you give customers (receipts, invoices, statements, etc.), Menus and product information sheets
Respond to everyone who mentions, retweets you, or favorites one of your tweets, they are seeking a connection with you. From a certain perspective, this is a truly humbling event. Someone has valued you and your profile enough that they want to connect.
It’s OK to tweet the same thing multiple times
Chime in: Do you have any other Twitter tips for small businesses?
I decided to repost this Slow Cooked Lamb Riblets Recipe because it didn’t receive the recognition that I think it deserved when it was first appeared last year.
Besides it would make a perfect weekend meal and a great change from all that leftover turkey from last week – which by the way should have all been eaten or trashed by now.
For this post, I had just recorded my first #BrunchwithBlakePeriscope broadcast, however, it is no longer available. Which is why I now only livestreamed on Facebook because the videos last forever as well as the videos on my YouTube channel which I need to get back to making.
This Crock Pot recipe was made with Lamb Riblets which are smaller than lamb ribs and they were purchased at Shoprite. I have found Shoprite to have the best variety of meats especially cuts of lamb, but feel free to shop around.
Lamb is such a versatile meat and we actually prefer it to beef even though we don’t eat much red meat at all.
Most people prefer to bake lamb in the oven however, I wanted to try slow cooking them and was glad because they turned out to be very tender – fall off the bone tender and very tasty too!
Lamb is also a cleaner cut of meat, healthier than beef and leaner but less flavorful so you can choose any type of sauce or marinade as it will not overpower it.
2 packages of Lamb Riblets
1 bottle of Marinade
1/2 cup onions – diced
1 cup carrots – matchstick style
Brush each lamb riblet with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you can also sprinkle any additional seasoning as preferred. Place 1 entire package of riblets into the Crock Pot, cover with half of the diced onions and carrot sticks, then add the second pack and cover with remaining onions and carrots.
Pour entire bottle of marinade of your choice, I used Delmonico’s Restaurant Spiced Apple.
Cover and slow cook on low for 6 hour or on high for 4 hours.
Serve with your favorite starch, over rice or noodles and of course with a fresh vegetable, I chose Kale. As a side note: you can use Slow Cooker bags for easier cleanup, however, I prefer to spray the inside with a Cooking Spray or you can use a paper towel to wipe the inside with a vegetable or canola oil.
Can you believe it, this is the last day of November! All the leaves have fallen from our trees which hasn’t made hubby too happy and there is less sunshine during the day which make my evening commute much worse.
Winter will be here and soon I’ll be wrapped in hats, scarves and gloves but until then I am still wrapped in sweaters and shawls.
As you can see, I was not wearing pantyhose or tights in these pics, however, since then have pulled them out and started wearing them because it got really chilly last week.
Speaking of last week, it was a very busy one because in addition to getting ready for Thanksgiving, I conducted a Basic Blogging Workshop at the Bear Library, and then presented a “Social Media for Personal and Professional Networking” Workshop for IAAP Administrators in Dover both of which were awesome.
Thanksgiving was nice, Malik came home Tuesday and I prepared a nice dinner for my mini men and hubby and we had more than enough to eat. The No Thaw Jennie-O Cajun Turkey was amazing and very easy to cook, from the freezer to the oven to the table in four hours. After dinner, I spent several hours pulling out winter sweaters, ironing and gathering items to be donated to the Salvation Army.
Not one who likes wearing winter coats, I do however, love this shawl because it’s large enough to be wrapped in total warmth and it matches perfectly with these suede fringed booties. If you remember, I purchased these booties from TJ Maxx for a Cowboy outfit and they are very comfy and cute – what do you think?
Last minute I changed from the shawl and booties and decided to wear this oversized, thrifted sweater with these Cognac color pumps to work instead. I also have these Fioni pumps in black purchased at a BOGO sale last month at Payless. I received several compliments from a few ladies in the office which made me feel pretty good.
This is not a “You Choose the Shoes” post, but I am going to ask, which pair would you have worn with this outfit?
Thanksgiving weekend has taken on a new tradition in our home. As the years have passed and our sons have got older rushing out on Black Friday to buy the latest toy or gadget has been replaced by staying indoors relaxing and spending time together watching movies. This year Shop Small Saturday and Cyber Monday were also days in which we kept money in our wallets instead choosing to clear out closets gathering gently used clothing to be donated to the Salvation Army which will be picked up on Wednesday.
Donating to Toys for Tots where a local RE/MAX Realtor sets up a drop box at the entrance of over 20 local developments and donating cans and non-perishable foods to the Delaware Food Bank is yet another holiday tradition.
Giving Tuesday is a globally celebrated day of giving back that kicks off the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and continues until the end of the year.
Giving back can be done in many different ways from donating cash or checks to charitable organization which has been vetted to giving time at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter or delivering Meals on Wheels. Giving as a family can create a positive tradition that can be passed on to the future generations, fostering a sense of caring and responsibility.
There are so many local organizations that could use your support, if you don’t know of any personally there are several websites that will assist you in locating several of them; GuideStar, Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving site.
If you live in Delaware, here is a partial list of non-profit organizations that would love to accept donations in celebration of #GivingTuesday
Soul Saving Family Restoration Center, Inc.
Students for Haiti
Freedom Center For Independent Living
Christ Servants Mission Institute
Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans, Inc.
As you know, many of your donations are tax-deductible so keep a record of the amounts or items, as well as the dates and organizations for annual tax return filing.
Is #GivingTuesday part of your holiday traditions?
How was your holiday weekend? Did you find any Black Friday bargains or Shop Small Saturday steals and deals?
Not much of a shopper myself I didn’t leave the house, however, we recently had to replace our LG Washing Machine and the new model is awesome. It’s amazing how far technology has come in just a few short years…or at least in the past 10 years since we purchased the other model.
I hope we don’t need to replace any of our other major appliances any time soon, however, I have been curious about some of the new “Smart Appliances”. Still being a little reluctant to purchase one, especially with all these Cyber Security hacking in the news, I decided to do a little research and found an interesting article that I wanted to share from TechforAnyone.
Back in 2014, a security firm announced details that a number of smart appliances were used to send out spam across the internet. It was a wake-up call to the potential security threats that our new home appliance and electronics pose. Most people now own at least a connected television for streaming but the appliance makers are pushing out the boundaries of what information and capabilities these things have. But is this necessarily a good thing?
What Are Smart Appliances?
There are a wide range of features that appliances can have that a manufacturer might claim for them to be a smart appliance. After all, many devices have computers in them to help manage their energy consumption or adjust actions so that they perform their duties better. My fuzzy logic rice cooker is great at cooking all sorts of rice perfectly but is it a smart appliance? The real definition these days of a smart appliance is one that it is connected to other devices remotely. This can be as simple as a television that can stream video from a service like Netflix to an oven that can be setup with a meal that is refrigerated and then told remotely when to have the meal ready to eat.
Insteon Home Automation Controller
Home automation is one of the key aspects of smart appliances. The ability to turn on and off appliances at specific times, adjusting lighting remotely and managing power consumption are just a few examples. In the case of home automation, the appliances and light fixtures may not even be smart appliances but connected to a smart power outlet. The key here is that there is a home automation controller that is in essence a computer that somehow controls those devices and it can be accessed with a remote computer or mobile device via a web page or through a mobile application.
Why They Are A Threat?
Essentially, anything that is connected to the internet can pose a risk. As the event at the start of this article pointed out, the smart appliances were used to send out bulk spam. Similarly, they could be setup to do things like a DDoS attack to take out web sites on the internet, be used as remote relays to try and break into other network systems or just be hacked to cause malice to the appliance owner. If the devices did not have any connection with the internet, the threats would be significantly lessened.
Lack of Security Expertise
One of the biggest problems with the rise of smart appliances is the lack of a security focus. Computers have existed for consumers for a long time and have developed a set of security standards. While not all software is necessarily secure, you often can get third party security companies that help maintain the security integrity of your computers. This is where Synmatec, McAfee, Kaspersky, Sophos and Trend Micro to name a few make computer security products to help protect consumers and businesses. Appliances on the other hand are reliant upon the developers of the software working at those companies. This can best be claimed as security through obscurity.
Users are unaware of how their devices are managed or interconnected. They have no ability to put a security product on them to help prevent any sort of attack. In essence, they have to rely on the appliance manufacturer to make a secure product. Since they use a proprietary system, they think that it will be more difficult to hack but hackers were able to develop a means to remotely control a Prius or Ford Focus. They still needed local access to do this but who is to say as our cars become more connected that this could eventually be done over the internet?
Need to Limit Exposure
The concept is that these appliances need to be connected to the internet to make our lives easier. A refrigerator that can notify us when we are running low on certain groceries, an oven that can be told when to start cooking or just being able to program when a TV program will be recorded by a built in DVR. They are all ideas that are beneficial to some people but they are not critical features. The thing is that many of these things don’t necessarily need to be directly connected to the internet to do these tasks.
For instance, a refrigerator could be setup to monitor the age of various perishable items in it. When they hit an expiration data, it can modify a shopping list to replenish those items. Rather than being designed to order them via the internet, why not just design it to sync up with a mobile phone shopping list application via a near field communication to update the apps list of items to get. It still is a smart appliance as it will sync with a device but is not exposed to the internet.
What Can Be Done About it…
Whirlpool My Smart Appliances App
With the ubiquity of smart phones, I think that manufacturers should look at more ways to interface their smart appliances through a centralized system. This could be similar to a home automation system that could then be secured more readily by the consumer. After all, a smart automobile could route all its features through a smart phone or tablet connected to wireless internet. The phone security can then be used to hopefully prevent attacks. A central home automation server could do same with home appliances that need to be adjusted remotely. The downside to such a system of course is a single point of failure. That smart phone or automation computer breaking or being breached puts the whole system at risk. The different though is it is easier to secure a single point rather than multiple ones.
So, don’t give up on smart appliances. They can still be quite useful but as a consumer, be mindful of what those capabilities are and how vulnerable you may become through them. Hopefully manufacturers will start considering the smart appliance security implications now that real world threats have been found.