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What security issues may virtual assistants cause?

date: 31 January 2017
reading time: 2 min

It has become common to talk to devices around you and almost always receive an answer. However, how safe is it?

Even though it surely is on trend to use and have a virtual assistant machine at home, it is also an imperative to think about potential repercussions.

As your Amazon Echo controlled by Alexa is able to react to most of your voice commands, how much can it really hear and remember?

Well, this is the very reason why these devices present us with numerous security threats.

For example, the already mentioned Alexa, reacts to verbal orders but must be woken up by a specific command, yet sometimes it stays alert at all times.

What does it mean?

It means that, as any other virtual assistant device, it listens to everything that is said in the space it’s put in, and may misinterpret certain sentences or conversations.

What is more, it is incapable of putting these words in context, so instead of understanding the real sense of sentences it may twist them into threats, crime plotting, etc.

You don’t really have control over what is being sent to the cloud and what is left out. You don’t know who has access to that information and how it may be used.

Some misinterpretations may cause taking advantage of the device.

Since Alexa is able to order you a pizza, flowers, and so on, it most definitely can order them for anyone – unfortunately, this may happen on your Amazon account, which means you automatically pay for it.

It may be similar with children or even your TV programmes – whenever Alexa hears commands as ‘buy’ or ‘order’, it may do as it’s told, unfortunately – without your knowledge. This example is actually based on a true story.

The bright side is, it is possible to turn off the purchasing feature, microphone, or even both. Additionally, if you want to keep the purchasing feature anyway, you can add a confirmation code to protect yourself.

Of course, while used wisely, Alexa and other devices of such type are remarkable and offer lots of facilitations. The only thing that must be remembered is that while using them, you must be aware of potential problems and dangers.

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