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Is “Smart” Technology Invading Your Privacy?

By Lauren Zdanis | Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

We educate our clients all the time about how to keep their organizations secure and mitigate against insider and outsider threats. But one area of security often overlooked is that of the home office – and the home itself on a larger scale. With new technologies constantly being released – and many of today’s devices linked via the Internet of Things (IoT) – the likelihood of being hacked or having private information stolen also increases.

Emerging ‘smart’ technologies such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are making their way into many homes, making it simple to find for users to stay up-to-date on the latest news, ask for directions, or hear tomorrow’s weather forecast. The Echo’s voice assistant, Alexa, for example, can complete advanced tasks such as turning on lights and changing the temperature of your home.

But what if these technologies are jeopardizing the inherent privacy of your own home? Let’s take a look into the future.

One feature you may not be aware of when buying these devices is that they are effectively always listening and, at some times, recording what you say. So how secure are these devices? As with many voice-activated electronics, the Echo is triggered by a "wake word”. The device is constantly listening for that wake word. Once it’s heard, the device will stream whatever you say next to Amazon’s cloud - but it also effectively rewinds a few seconds and records voices before the wake word as well.

Amazon and Google both have security measures in place to ease user concerns. For example, you can easily press the mute button on Amazon’s Echo, which completely turns the microphone off. Users can also delete previously recorded audio. What is recorded, however, could be a potential target for hackers.

If home office networks are tied into corporate networks, and Alexa or another digital assistant is also connected, it could be another gateway for hackers to steal or compromise personal or business information. Eventually, the popularity of these devices could also mean they start popping up in other places than homes – perhaps corporate offices themselves.

It’s important to remember to treat your smart device just as you would any other personal device, and that means keeping security top of mind. With the widespread use of these devices, here are a few tips for keeping your information safe:

  • Mute the device when not in use

  • Delete old recordings containing personal information

  • Avoid connecting personal or professional accounts to your device

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