The prevalence of smart home devices have made our lives exponentially easier. Gone are the days when you had to use a handheld timer to remind you to take the cookies out of the oven, or the times you had to turn the radio dial to find another genre of music. Today, a simple voice command from devices such as Alexa, Facebook Portal, or Google Home allow people to build the ultimate smart home. While there are several advantages to having so much technology at our fingertips, or in this case, at the command of our voice, recent studies and real-life experiences by users of these devices have shown how they are not immune to hacking.
Cybersecurity researchers from the University of Michigan recently conducted a study to test just how vulnerable our smart speakers are to hacking and accessing our personal information. The study demonstrated that a high-powered laser could be pointed at a device such as an iPad to convert the laser’s light into an electrical signal as it would sound. Later, researchers found that lasers could “silently speak” to any computer or device that receives voice commands from hundreds of feet away. That’s right, smartphones were at risk as well. Worse, this smart speaker hacking can be done through windows and from far distances, making it possible for hackers to access your information whether or not you’re home. A voice-assistant hacker can use an infrared laser that is naked to the eye to manipulate the settings on a device such that they turn down volume, among other manipulations. To help prevent hacking and protect your personal information stored on your devices, we’ve compiled a list of 7 tips.
- Change & strengthen your passwords — Similar to protecting other important accounts and logins, making sure you create a strong password linked to your device is important. Use a multi-factor authentication system, if possible, such that hackers can’t listen in remotely.
- Protect your network — Do not use an open hotspot at home for your voice-activated devices. Instead, use a WPA2-encrypted WiFi network.
- Disable “personal results” — Keep your bank information private by turning this function off. Consider removing capabilities of paying important bills from your smart home device if you’re concerned about the safety of your personal information.
- Turn off microphone — Your voice-activated device is always listening to you. While that might be a scary reality, one way to prevent it from always collecting information about your personal conversations and happenings is to mute it when it’s not in use.
- Only connect to other essential smart home devices — Connecting your Alexa or Google Home to your home security systems, such as your door lock, could be detrimental. Consider only connecting it to devices such as the thermostat or the lights.
- Don’t overshare — Limit how much personal information you disclose to these smart home devices. Never give your credit card information, Social Security number, or other personal information as these can be easily stored and accessed by hackers.
- Check your settings often — When was the last time you checked your smart home settings to see what locations are being tracked, who is tied to the account, and who can drop in? Make it a habit to check on your device’s app to see recent activity or make it a habit to update your password frequently.
While learning about smart speaker hacking can certainly cause uneasiness, knowledge is power in these scenarios. Stay informed on device updates, changes in your security systems, and more. For recommendations on other technological topics such as these, be sure to visit us on Facebook.