Are Your Smart Devices Spying on You?

Are Your Smart Devices Spying on You?

In a previous post we discussed privacy and security concerns surrounding Amazon’s Alexa device. The post covered how users are increasingly concerned about the security measures in place on their favourite smart devices to protect their privacy. Many homes today are equipped with smart appliances from Alexa and Google Home to help make our daily lives more effortless and seamless. These devices can often be voice activated and users are able to voice commands to these assistants. Most people are worried about the amount of information these devices are collecting, especially given that many of them are placed in homes, and are privy to the most personal and sensitive information in our lives.

Are These Devices Recording You?

A common fear from these voice-activated smart devices is that they will record their users’ day to day conversations. Since many of these devices are often activated with a ‘wake’ or trigger word and they are always on so that they can listen for that word. Furthermore, devices like Alexa will record speech following their wake word and subsequently upload it to the cloud where server algorithms analyze the speech. These recordings can also be deleted by users if they choose. So companies like Amazon try to reassure their users that they are only recording necessary speech and do not collect any further information.

However, despite these reassurances, there have been many past instances where the smart devices or assistants have glitched. For example, there was a time when Alexa recorded a family’s conversation (without them saying the wake word) and sent it off to an acquaintance without their knowing. This is also not an isolated incident, there have been many other situations where Alexas “eavesdrops” and records conversations without being activated by their users. These smart devices are still subject to making mistakes and occasionally glitching.

Can these Devices be Hacked?

Can cybercriminals hack these devices and infiltrate your home? The short answer is that anything can be hacked. Despite security measures, all popular smart home platforms (including Alexa and Google Home) have security gaps that can be exploited. These criminals can then either trick you into giving them your personal information, or collect a wide range of sensitive information from you. Many people mistakenly believe that the ‘smart’ nature of these devices prevents them from being a hacking hazard, but it is always important to stay diligent and aware of these security flaws. We talk more about how to see if your home security camera is spying on you here.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to ensure that your devices are always up to date - often updates are to help patch security flaws and any issues that may arise with your smart devices.

The Future of Smart Devices?

 

As our lives become increasingly digitized, it only makes sense that user data and information becomes a more highly sought after and more widely available commodity. Companies want this data in order to better target advertising and promotional material to users. Digital assistants, like Alexa, host a wealth of personal and sensitive information that could be of interest to giants like Amazon. Beyond your searches and commands, being able to listen to your speech actually reveals a host of personal information about the individual. Voice can tell you the gender and age of an individual and also background noises can be used to identify other family members in the household. Thus, it is important to be a conscious consumer and user of these devices and know the risks involved with their use.

Other Cybersecurity Practices?

If you are interested in learning more about cybersecurity and other ways you can keep yourself safe - check out our website or read more of our blog posts!

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