OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk to a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.
 
Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, and turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.
 
Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.
 
Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.
 

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

 
The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google.” Once the device is triggered, it records the command. It then sends the data to servers for processing, to figure out the best response.
 
Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. Many are concerned that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. If you ask where you can buy chunky monkey ice cream, you might start seeing ads for ice cream.
 
Hackers gaining access to your personal information is another worry. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.
 
It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list. Yikes!
 

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

 
With all of that said, very few big privacy flubs or personal data breaches have been reportedNevertheless, if using Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.
 
1. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.
 
2. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.
 
3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet “OK, Google, what’s the weather like today?” But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it.
 
4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. modems) changed from default password settings.
 
With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.
 
Want more questions answered about setting up a smart speaker to be safe and reliable? We’re here to help. Give us a call at 360-567-8838
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