As technology advances and voice activation is added to practically every device, a serious conversation needs to happen. With new technology comes new threats and voice-activated devices are no different. While many companies strive to patch problems as soon as they arise, just as many hackers are trying to find ways to exploit new technology. This is part one of a three-part series on smart speakers and virtual assistants. As we move through the series, we will delve deeper into the risks associated with voice-activated devices.

Voice Activated smart speakers are in almost a quarter of U.S. households, not counting cell phones. These speakers come with built-in voice-activated assistants that can definitely make your life easier and more organized, but they also come with a few concerns.

Anyone Can Gain Access
Unless you have the newer models that can differentiate between voices and be training, anyone within range of your smart speaker can access it.

Example: Attack on the Inquisitive Child
Little Timmy sees the latest toy on his favorite TV show. Timmy sees mommy ordering things all the time and like magic, they appear a few days later. Timmy is going to emulate mommy and ask Alexa to order the $200.00 toy for him. Now you might be saying there is a password to protect against this type of thing, but if you honestly think your 4-year-old does not know the password you say in front of him several times a day then this article probably isn’t going to help you.

Example: Attack of the Obnoxious Neighbor
We hope this next scenario does not happen to you and you don’t have this guy living next to you. If you live in an apartment complex or in a closely built neighborhood an obnoxious neighbor could, in theory, cause a tune of mischief. In August 2018 researchers demonstrated the ability to transmit voice commands that are inaudible to the human ear. No does your nosy neighbor have this ability, I really can’t say, but the possibility is there.

Example: Your TV Turns Against You
This last example is the most likely to happen unless you have a shopaholic four-year-old. With new shows incorporating smart speakers into their shows, you could have your favorite TV character activate your personal smart speaker. Google’s Super Bowl ad triggered their devices in people’s homes in 2017, so this one is more of a probability than a possibility.

The examples above don’t seem all that bad, except for little Timmy’s shopping problem. Take what you learn here and let it be a reminder to practice common sense when utilizing any new technology. There will always be vulnerabilities with any tech, most of them just haven’t been discovered yet.

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