How Smart Is Your Virtual Personal Assistant?
More and more people have virtual personal assistants, or smart assistants, known as Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, in their homes. These smart assistants can do so much to make our lives easier: hands-free reordering of household staples, checking the weather, and playing our favorite songs, among many other things. What could go wrong?
Recently, for a couple in Oregon, things did go wrong. The couple was having a private conversation at home. A few minutes later, they received a call from a concerned friend telling them to unplug their Alexa, suggesting they had been hacked. It turns out that their device was not hacked, but rather a series of misinterpreted background sounds led to Alexa recording and emailing their conversation to someone in their contact list. A fluke, but one that could have had humiliating consequences. Amazon put out statement saying they are evaluating options to make a scenario like this less likely to occur.
To protect yourself, make sure you understand fully how your smart assistant works. Additionally, consider how much access you are willing to give the assistant. Minimize the amount of access to only what is absolutely necessary–this is a cyber security basic. According to Lifehacker, if you don’t intend to make and receive calls with Alexa, don’t enable this feature. If you do enable this feature, recognize that the contacts on whatever device the app is on (a smartphone, for example) will be automatically synced.
As with all things cyber, your level of awareness is directly related to your ability to shield your information and privacy.