What once was a crazy concept conjured up by conspiracy theorists, today, has become a real concern for many Americans. After years of dismissing reports and suspicions of smart devices spying us, manufacturers are finally admitting there may be some truth to the idea after all.

The Age of Robots

Science fiction writers have predicted a robotic revolution for many decades, but the reality of that revolution looks very different. The age of robots may be here, but it has taken the form of a personal assistant rather than a robot set out on a mission to conquer the world.

The Dark Side of the Robotic Revolution

While in-home and in-office robots may be convenient, there is a dark side to the robotic revolution.  As they improve our lives, devices like Alexa, Google Home and Siri pose a number of privacy risks and data vulnerabilities.  If you want to protect yourself and your data, you need to understand these vulnerabilities – and prevent these connected devices from becoming inadvertent spies.

With each new leap in technology comes a subset of unscrupulous people with their sights set on an angle to exploit it – more specifically the people who use it. The robotic revolution is definitely no exception. And unfortunately, many smart devices – (particularly household related), offer little protection in terms of security.

What is Considered a Smart Device?

Smart devices are everywhere, but there is still a great deal of confusion about what these devices are and what risks they pose to consumers.

One defining factor of smart devices is their ability to share data, connect to the internet and interact with other devices. A smart device could take the form of a smartphone, thermostat, refrigerator, door lock, speaker, light switch, or even coffee pot.

But when it comes to privacy concerns, thanks to a handful of viral news stories, Alexa and Google Home might immediately come to mind above all else.

Smart Devices in the News

  • One news story in particular centered on a family whose Alexa device not only recorded a private conversation, but sent the conversation to one of their smartphone contacts.The Alexa case is still being investigated, but Amazon claims that a series of unlikely events converged to create the scenario. Just how unlikely that scenario really is remains to be seen, but many Amazon fans are deeply skeptical of the company’s claims.
  • To add insult to injury, there have been a number of high profile cases where smart televisions were spying on their owners using built-in cameras to record what was happening in the room – and sending that information to third parties.
  • Even baby monitors have been implicated in smart device scandals, leaving new parents worried about their privacy – and the safety of their children.
  • Unfortunately, even seemingly innocent toys are not immune from the dangers of spying. Your child may have one of those CloudPets, but those plush toys are not as innocent as they look. These high-tech stuffed animals have proven to be very hackable, putting the security of their young owners in jeopardy.

The FBI Weighs In

Make no mistake, the federal government is well aware of the risk consumers’ face when it comes to smart devices. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently weighed in on the security of router devices used to connect our homes. The FBI recently issued an urgent warning, urging everyone who owns a router to reboot the device.

A vulnerability was uncovered as part of the Russian spying scandal – one that left hundreds of thousands of routers vulnerable to attack by foreign agents. And while the FBI was able to take control of the compromised website, the agency urged consumers and businesses to reboot their devices in an attempt to isolate and defuse the vulnerability.

The dangers posed by smart devices are very real, and the bad guys use the data they steal in a number of different ways. From appropriating trade secrets to swiping passwords, hackers and other bad actors have used the vulnerability of smart devices in a number of nefarious ways.

In response to these vulnerabilities and the seemingly endless parade of news stories, governments around the world are taking action. In addition to the recent GDPR legislation in Europe, a number of individual countries are taking further steps to protect the privacy of their citizens. Germany is one such example. The country recently banned the sale of smart watches for children, and a number of the nations are predicted to follow suit.

Tips to Protect Your Privacy

So what can you do to protect your privacy while still enjoying the convenience these devices bring to your life?

The good news is that you can protect yourself and your data before your privacy is compromised.  From changing the settings on your Android or iOS smartphone and avoiding untested apps, to resetting the passwords on your internet-connected devices, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your privacy.

Take a moment to follow these specific steps to prevent your smart TV, Google Home, Apple HomePod, and Amazon Echo from listening to your private conversations.

From smartphones to internet-enabled TVs, Alexa or Google Home devices – for many people, the convenience of these devices still outweighs the risk.

By being proactive and taking the necessary steps to secure your smart devices as best you can, you can minimize the risk of your privacy being violated and sit back, relax, and enjoy the amazing age of technology we live in.

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