Modern technology makes it possible to control just about any device, from your laptop computer or smart phone: home security systems, garage doors, even a thermostat.
But computer experts said that these devices make users vulnerable to hackers looking to make someone's life miserable.
Valley photographer Pete Kertz put up cameras around his house that link up to his home security system and his smartphone.
"It's a safety issue, a safety issue for my wife and my kids," said Kertz. "When I'm not here and the alarm goes off at night, they can see what's going on here."
But Kertz's Valley home and others like it may not be as safe and secure as some think.
Carlos Alvarez is a network engineer who lives in Peoria.
Alvarez conducted a demonstration for CBS5 with some simple software that searched for wi-fi networks in his neighborhood.
"If it's unsecured, or very lightly secured and easy to get access to, then its the same as someone walking into the house and plugging in the wire," said Alvarez.
Once an open network is identified - all it takes is a couple of clicks, and a hacker could make themselves at home inside someone's house, watching their every move thorough webcams, TVs, smartphones and personal computers, Alvarez said.
Within minutes, Alvarez found more than 5,000 networks, with hundreds of them showing easy access to an assortment of devices.
"Somebody could change your thermostat, change your lighting controls or look at your cameras," said Alvarez. "There are people who are looking specifically to get this data. People have been blackmailed with the footage obtained from those home video cameras."
Hacking into someone's network is against the law, so Alvarez stopped short of opening up anyone's personal information or looking around their house.
But he does want to warn homeowners how vulnerable they can be if they don't secure their system, and set up tough-to-crack passwords on all their devices.
But even that may not be enough.
Daniel Crowly is a researcher at the security firm TrustWave Holdings, which has done numerous tests on electronic devices to see if they're hackable.
Crowley claims that security is not the priority with numerous products, and it's putting consumers at risk.
"It seems like there is very little thought given to security in making these devices," said Crowley. "There were one or two technologies where we had a hard time finding problems with, but for the most part, it took a matter of hours to find really bad flaws in most of what we looked at."
Crowley recently hacked into an automated toilet made by a Japanese company just for fun and to show the security challenges smart appliances present.
Most major electronics companies are aware of the security flaws and are reportedly working to improve them.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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