Are you sure that your Alexa isn’t listening to you right now? A seemingly helpful smart device for your home may be recording your private conversations.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Amazon workers are listening to what Alexa owners tell their smart assistant. Instead of a device using AI and machine learning, Alexa owners had Amazon global team listening to their conversation with their smart assistant, reportedly to ‘help the voice-activated assistant respond to commands’.
Despite Amazon’s claims that Alexa users are safe and their privacy is the company’s major concern, Bloomberg’s report immediately triggered a chain of very different reactions, from jokes and memes to conspiracies to news reports of Alexa sending the recording of private conversations to random people:
Despite these concerns, the demand for home IoT devices will continue growing. Statista reports that over 75 billion households will have at least one IoT device installed by 2025. Since the Internet connection is an important prerequisite that helps smart devices function, digital privacy and data safety will always be a major concern.
So, if smart devices will soon become an inalienable part of every household, how can the users keep themselves safe using IoT home devices? Let’s take a look.
1. Home WiFi Safety
While smart technology makes your home more sustainable, the lack of WiFi safety may be a threat to this sustainability. While smart devices heavily rely on the Internet connection, ensuring that this connection is safe is key to your privacy.
Better WiFi security can be achieved through the following steps:
- Name your router correctly. It may be tempting to use a router name that is easy to memorize, like your name, address, etc. However, according to Popular Science, using your private information to name the router is a guide to a hacker to find your network faster. After that it’s the matter of minutes: having obtained your router name, a hacker can guess your password or use social engineering to have you reveal it.
- Choose a stronger encryption method. Choosing the wrong protocol can undermine your security. The majority of WiFi networks operate using WPA2 (WiFi protected access), but you can improve the safety of your WiFi connection by switching to the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which uses a 128-bit key.
- Create a separate guest network. If you have guests coming to your house, it’s better to have separate WiFi access. A separate guest network shouldn’t be tied to your IoT devices and is an extra step to ensure your privacy.
All WiFi routers come with factory settings, and not many users choose to change them, hoping that their privacy is already ensured. In reality, you need to tamper with the settings of your WiFi router to ensure the security of all your smart devices.
2. Customize Device Privacy Settings
Now, let’s talk about the security of each of your smart home devices. Just as with your WiFi router, you need to customize the privacy settings of your smart devices.
Since we’ve started talking about Alexa (which, by the way, controls other smart home devices, like LG smart light bulbs, IoT-based washing machines, and refrigerators), let’s see how you can change the privacy settings to make sure that communication with your smart assistant stays private.
After selecting your Alexa Account and going to the ‘Alexa Privacy’ tab:
- Select “Manage how data improves your Alexa”
- Turn off the feature “Use messages to improve transcriptions”
- Turn off the feature “Help develop new features”
Amazon claims they are using only randomly selected audio recordings, and turning off the above-mentioned features will limit the access their access to your device.
You can also manage Skill Permissions by switching each skill on or off if you think they may be a threat to your privacy.
3. Secure Yourself with Two-Step Authentication
On Amazon Forum, Alexa users overwhelmingly recommend turning off the device when not using it for a long time (for instance, overnight) to those, who are concerned with privacy issues.
This leads us to our last safety tip.
If you decide to turn your smart devices on and off, you’ll have to enable a better way to protect your devices from hackers. “A strong password is not enough since any password can be potentially hacked and the majority of users usually enable password auto-fill”, says Frederick Peterson, an IT security specialist at Flatfy.
A better solution here is a two-step authentication that can, for instance, tie your phone number and send you an additional password besides your regular password.
There is, of course, still a threat to your privacy in case someone gets hold of your phone. However, you can easily block your phone number or phone from another device in case it gets in the wrong hands.
All smart devices today give users an option to switch two-step verification on, and manufacturers reiterate the necessity of this feature for your privacy. So, to make sure your connection remains safe, make sure to enable two-step authentication.
Enjoy Your Smart Devices and Stay Safe!
Today, data security and privacy, in general, are the biggest concern. While companies are working hard on enhancing the privacy settings of all smart devices, hackers keep inventing new ways to get to our private data.
With these tips, you can ensure extra protection for your smart devices and your data. A more secure WiFi connection, customized privacy settings, and the two-step authentication give you an extra level of protection, so you can fully enjoy using your smart devices.
Now that you are aware of how to safely use your smart gadgets, be sure to visit our website now to check out our full range of smart home devices.
Author Bio: Ryan is a passionate writer who likes sharing his thoughts and experiences with the readers. Currently, he works as a digital marketing specialist, you can check his website. He likes everything related to travelling and new countries.