Cyber Security, Tip of the Week, Trends & Technology

Privacy Don’t Take it for Granted

Just imagined this scenario happening to you:

“Unplug your Alexa devices right now,” a voice on the other line said. “You’re being hacked.” Apparently, one of Amazon.com’s Alexa-powered Echo devices in their house had silently sent recordings to the caller without the family’s permission, according to KIRO 7, a news station covering Seattle and western Washington state that first reported the story. The person, an employee of the husband, was in the family’s contact list. “My husband and I would joke and say, ‘I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,’ ” a woman who identified herself only by her first name, Danielle, told KIRO. She added that the device did not tell her that it would be sending the recorded conversations. by Hamza Shaban of the Washington Post.”

See Video

Amazon Echo is a type of smart speakers developed by Amazon.com. Echo connects to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant referred to as Alexa.

It is ideally a device for convenience:

  • Voice interaction
  • Make calls
  • Music playback
  • Making to do lists
  • Setting alarms
  • Streaming podcasts
  • Playing audiobooks
  • Providing weather
  • Traffic
  • Many more real time information

See VideoBy Gary horcher of KIRO7

Solutions to increase your privacy at home or work

  • Best solution is to unplug the device
  • Be aware of your device’s capabilities
  • Minimize any future damages by: disabling the microphone prior to having a private conversation
  • Our technicians would use inexpensive black electrical tape to put over lap top’s camera or using a webcam slide cover
  • If you are using a home security device with a camera, turn it around so it is facing the wall instead and just return it to the appropriate position when leaving home or work (see Home security camera systems vulnerabilities)
  • More importantly if you have the Echo speaker, do not set it up to make calls
  • Google has calling capabilities similar to the Echo by setting up calls in the Google Home smartphone app
  • Do not use the “wake word” for Alexa
  • Consider using a different wake word – in Alexa’s case, it is Alexa, Echo, Amazon, or Computer

Just be aware that with technology such as devices with cameras, speakers, recorders, and real time interactions comes the issue of losing privacy. A good example is a city installing hundreds of surveillance cameras for the community to have a feeling of security. The community will have virtual block watch allowing anyone with an email address and internet connection to watch whatever activities the cameras capture.

 

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