Amazon Echo, Google Home, and other smart assistants are dominating our homes and making the lives of people all around the world more convenient and organized. Although these home assistants may look hip and stylish – like powerful little music speakers with a brain in them – they are actually powerful enough to handle many tasks you have never imagined possible.
Coming with artificial intelligence as the standard and fine-tuned voice recognition technology, these wireless smart assistants remain connected to the internet (usually with the help of a smart hub management device) and are constantly listening out for your commands.
Whether you are adding items to your online basket, asking a question about the weather or want to play some music, it seems like smart home assistants can do it all, and they are only getting more powerful as the technologies progress.
With this in mind, you probably only have one question – are they safe and secure, or are they a security nightmare waiting to happen? With people of all demographics all across the world embracing smart home assistants, this question has never been more relevant.
Here are three security risks that can be associated with smart home assistants:
#1: Accidental Triggering
We have all heard news stories about this; the media lap it up and often twist the stories somewhat, but the underlying issue is still there.
More recently, you may have heard about how a homeowner accidentally and unknowingly triggered Amazon’s Alexa system. It then recorded the conversation the homeowner was having, saved it and sent it on to third parties.
AI-powered home devices are typically powered with a wake word, such as “OK Google” or “Alexa” – the issue here is that smart speakers can easily misinterpret other words and be activated without you knowing about it.
This is quite alarming, and many advertisers have already incorporated these wake words into their marketing to prolong the message and get extra coverage in the press. Google, though, has been quick to act against advertisers doing this, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
#2: Third Party Users
Smart home assistants cannot yet distinguish between people’s voices, and with this comes a massive security problem: anybody can activate your AI-powered home assistant and give it commands.
This is a major problem should you have your financial information linked up to your smart home assistant or e-commerce accounts, as this data can easily be accessed by a third party using your device.
Using voice commands, third parties could also do other things such as send messages, emails, determine your location or order products online from the likes of Amazon (one of Amazon Echo’s major selling points).
#3: Your Voice is Recorded and Sent
Every single time you use Google Home, Amazon Echo or any other smart home device, your request is recorded and pinged straight over to the manufacturers’ servers and logged into your account.
You can easily access all these previous requests, which is great; however, this also means that anybody who gets unauthorised access to your account – should it happen – would be able to access these too.
If you are using your smart home assistant for any personal or sensitive matters and requests (not recommended!), the security implications become immediately obvious. All it takes is one person with bad intentions to get a hold of this information and use it to their advantage.
Smart home speakers may well be revolutionising our homes with their convenience and organizational capabilities. However, they come with some alarming security problems, which will only become more relevant as these technologies become more popular and common in our homes.