Twenty million or more homes now entertain a smart-speaker sidekick. Speaking to devices isn’t new, just ask Alexander Graham Bell. But with technology constantly building on top of itself, these little household helpers are now leading the way. With all of their novelty and support, there is a flipside of voice-activation. From casual users, there are several areas of concern.

Although the devices are trained to recognize the voices of users and family members, it’s far from 100% foolproof. Advertisers are already using voice-activation in TV and radio ads. While you’re cooking dinner, your kids might have a different idea and order a continuing stream of pizza deliveries. A more nefarious character could ask for personal information or turn on the shopping option for a lucrative shopping spree.

Privacy violations are cropping up primarily because once the device is activated, it records what’s being said and in some cases, uploads that data to a server elsewhere.

Earlier this year, Amazon was asked to give up an Echo device to the authorities concerning a murder case. Law enforcement believed the Echo may have inadvertently recorded information about the crime. Amazon relinquished the device, but not without protest. To be expected, voice-activated data vulnerability and privacy invasion hasn’t gone unnoticed by hackers. As smart-speakers grow in popularity, the more you’ll need to protect yourself.

  • Always link your smart speaker to your home or office Wi-Fi network. Having it attached to a public Wi-Fi hotspot could spell disaster.
  • Using strong passwords with two-factor verification is always smart for any device. Smart-speaker voice-activation is no different.
  • Connect only necessary accounts. When a linked email device is compromised, it can be used to spy. Linking banking and other financial information is playing with fire. The more sensitive the account linked the more vulnerable it is.
  • Turn off the microphone for the device. It may not be convenient remembering to turn it back on, but you’ll know your privacy is certain when you’re not using it.

Hackers who gain access to the local network can change device settings or remove settings completely. Once they’re in the network, a whole lot of hurt can follow. Make sure you’re not making it easier for them.

Donovan B. Fox © Copyright 2018 SDFCU.org