“OK Google. Is My Virtual Assistant Secure?”

For years, people have cringed over the idea of the government or the FBI wire tapping phones or browsing internet history and other basic invasion of privacy. The idea of cybercriminals stealing your personal data from your computer or mobile device is an ongoing threat. But how many people are considering the danger & security of a personal assistant such as Alexa?

To give you a good example of how fragile these things are, Burger King created a commercial in which one of the employees says at the end “Ok Google. What’s a Whopper burger?” Triggering the Google home assistant to then read off a very descriptive Wikipedia ad that would hopefully persuade the listener to go buy a Whopper. A little invasive, right? People were not excited about this ad, and Google had to block that certain command, yet people are gladly putting these devices in their homes everyday.

We feel that you should keep in mind a few things about Alexa and Google home before you install into your house, such as, the fact that virtual assistants lack security. What happens when hackers figure out how to subliminally hack the airwaves and tell your device to deposit your money into someone else’s account? How low of an audio level will the device accept and is there a way to test this? There seems to be no real test or standard as to how these devices work and that seems to open the door to a lot of security issues.

These personal assistants know everything. They know what you’re watching, what you’re listening to, what you’re searching, photographing and buying. We are really just adding to Google’s empire of data collection and who is keeping track of what is being sold or used of that information?

Considering personal assistants fit into the category of smart home devices linked to a server, its important to consider they may be at risk for IoT (Internet of Things) attacks as well. We’ve seen these types of attacks being used to target companies & not necessarily for spying on home users, but the main goal is the same. Hackers want to see and hear your private data so they can use that information against you to benefit themselves.

A few tips to those who chose to install a Siri, Alexa, Google Home device:

+ If you are not currently using your personal assistant, it’s wise to mute it or put it to sleep so that it’s not ‘always listening’.
+ Don’t ever connect sensitive accounts to your home assistant, or connect multiple accounts.
+ Clear out old recordings and search history regularly.
+ Be sure you know all your settings and permissions you are granting your home assistant and consider tightening those.