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Hey Alexa, Stop Stealing My Voice History

Hey Alexa, Stop Stealing My Voice History

As of 2019, an estimated 3.25 billion digital voice assistants are being used around the world. That number is expected to grow to as much as eight billion units by 2023.

That’s billions of opportunities for hackers to pick up your voice, and use it without your knowledge.

These digital voice assistants sit in your home or office. Waiting.

You sit down and discuss medications or a recent diagnosis with a colleague. Alexa is there.

You provide sensitive information on a telephone call. That voice assistant is there too, listening, sometimes recording.

What happens to that voice history? In most cases, nothing. But it’s also important to remember that whenever something is recorded and sitting there, people can be enticed to get in and find a way to use it.

One study found a way in, discovered security issues that allowed hackers to gain access to chat histories, and use that to get all kinds of data, including usernames, phone numbers, account credentials, and other information.  The study was done to highlight how important security is in the overall big picture of ensuring these new tools coming into our home are protecting our privacy.

Amazon fixed the problem as soon as it was brought to their attention.

Yet it still begs the question: how many other holes exist in this new frontier? With billions of devices ready and waiting for voice activation commands, how secure are you? Especially as we are increasingly working from home.

A study done by the Imperial College of London examined how many times digital personal assistants activate without using the wakeup word. They used over 125 hours of content from Netflix shows to determine how often they activate. Less than 9 percent of all devices misheard dialogue and woke up.

Is less than 9 percent acceptable? Is 1 percent? People that have their data stolen may argue the point.

But there is an even darker problem. These virtual voice assistants may have a small wake up rate, but what makes virtual voice assistants even more popular is the number of tools you can connect to, such as home automation. You may have a security policy regarding the use of a home assistant in a work environment, but what about if they are interconnected with a third-party system that controls the entire house? Suddenly, Alexa is listening everywhere.

Your workers are working from everywhere right now. We’re redefining what work environments look like. And the introduction of digital devices into our new workplaces will only increase in our future.

Having a security policy in place is your first step. It means taking control of all assistants and third-party programs before you have sensitive conversations.

It also matters no matter where the assistants reside. They can be in a work-from-home environment, or an apartment at an independent living facility. If you’re discussing private matters, any digital device could be listening.

And HIPAA regulators will care.

For IT Strategy, Cloud Conversion, or Help Desk Services reach out to us at Silver Linings Technology 360-450-4759.