Smart devices become hacking risks due to poor update policies

Smart appliances such as washing machines and TVs risk losing key features and functionality in as little as two years, new Which? research has revealed.

The firm analyzed products including washing machines, dishwashers, TVs, smartphones, printers and smartwatches and found that hardly any brands came close to matching the life expectancy with their smart update policies.

Failure to update cyber defenses also leaves some of the products open to hacking, Which? warned.

Many brands were found to offer no warranties, meaning consumers were unaware of how long their appliance would be supported upon purchase.

Appliances with smart home integration typically cost more than their non-smart counterparts – for example, a smart dishwasher costs almost £300 more upfront on average, at £746 versus £455

119 product brands were asked about their policies for updating support, and it was found that in most cases the support period was significantly shorter than the time the product usually lasts.

LG dishwashers, smart TVs and washing machines, for example, are all guaranteed support for two years – and that’s from when the product is launched, not when it was purchased.

But which one? estimates that TVs typically last an average of 6.8 years, washing machines last 11 years and dishwashers 13 years.

Sony also guarantees updates for its TVs only two years after launch, while Samsung promises three years of updates.

HP guarantees support for its smart printers for only three years, although the estimated lifetime of inkjet printers is 13 years. However, it was found to be the only major printer brand that offered any minimum period.

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Some companies such as Hisense, which supports smart TVs for 10 years, and Miele, which supports smart dishwashers and washing machines for 10 years, show that it is possible to support products for longer periods, Which? so.

It asked the government to introduce new rules requiring minimum periods during which manufacturers must support their products.

Rocio Concha, which one? director of policy, said: “It is unfair for manufacturers to sell expensive products that are supposed to last for many years and then abandon them. This means that the product may lose the features that justified the high price tag and potentially create a safety risk or add to the mountain of electrical waste if it needs to be replaced.

“Manufacturers need to step up their game and provide important technology updates for their smart products for a longer period of time, or the government should consider further intervention in this area, including specifying a minimum number of years for which these products must be supported.”

Samsung told What? it supported TVs for at least three years from launch and said it would ensure it fully complied with the new law relating to product safety and telecommunications infrastructure.

Sony said: “Sony delivers new software updates every two years; the last released software version is then available for a period of eight years after the end of its useful life.”

LG confirmed that it guaranteed support for two years, but added that TVs will “be supported with firmware security updates for up to five years from launch”.

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