Your New Friend Alexa May Have an Issue with Boundaries
Make sure to check your Amazon Echo to find out whether your helpful virtual assistant Alexa is not spying on you. There is no doubt that the dulcet tones of Alexa on the Amazon Echo can be a massive help around the home or office. Popular with millions of people around the world, Alexa is always ready to respond when you call, but recently researchers from a cybersecurity company have created a ‘hack’ that may allow Alexa to be a little too proactive.
Always Listening – That’s the Problem
Alexa is designed to stay in sleep mode, until voice-activated with the command, “Alexa!”. Cybersecurity experts, however, have designed a simple program that forces Alexa to remain always-activated, record conversations and then send those recordings to a third party. The malicious program was camouflaged as an app calculator that is activated when a user opens the app, or tells Alexa to open the calculator app. Once activated, Alexa is always listening, even when you think your Echo is off.
The device’s inbuilt security protocols should force the program to terminate the session once complete, or to request permission to continue the session. But the hack was able to bypass the protocols and force Alexa to continuously listen and record voices.
How to Protect Your Systems
This specific program was created purely to test the system’s security and was immediately reported to Amazon, which has since fixed the vulnerability. However, it is a sobering reminder of the potential dangers of such a system. What can you do to protect yourself from your Alexa? Just like any other online systems, computers and mobile phones, it’s important to check regularly for malware, unknown applications and small files that you know you did not install. Also, take a look at the little blue light every now and again. It indicates the Amazon Echo is activated. When you’re not using it, it should be off. If it isn’t there might be a problem.