More people are getting voice-activated speakers and other smart devices for convenience and security. But doing so could also be giving hackers a key to their homes، as the Japan Times said.
Many devices from reputable manufacturers have safeguards built in، but those can't guarantee against hacks. Gadgets from startups and no-name brands may offer little or no protection.
Speakers with built-in microphones are increasingly popular. Devices such as Amazon's Echo and Google Home let people check the weather or their personal calendar with simple voice commands. Beyond that، many smart TVs and TV streaming devices now have voice-activated functions، often for playback controls and video search. Many newer toys also come with microphones so kids can talk to them and get canned responses.
Many of these devices are constantly listening for your commands; when they receive them، they connect to corporate servers to carry them out. What if you're having private conversations at home? Are they getting sent over the internet، too?
In some cases، sound recordings will only leave home when you trigger the device. You might have to speak a command phrase like "OK Google" or press a button to get the device's attention. Check before buying to make sure a product includes such safeguards.
Some gadgets go further. Smart speakers، for instance، typically have a mute button to disable the microphone completely. Amazon says its mute function involves disconnecting the circuit، so that hackers cannot override the intent.
But there's no easy way for consumers to verify manufacturer promises، such as Amazon's assertion that the Echo never transmits recordings to the cloud unless it's been activated. That's where it helps to stick with reputable brands، as their reputations are at stake if they're caught in a lie. Bigger companies can also quickly fix security holes that crop up.
Missteps are still possible، even with reputable brands. One of the WikiLeaks disclosures alleged that the CIA commandeered some Samsung smart TVs as listening devices even when the TV appeared to be off. And beware of internet-connected toys، as manufacturers frequently rush their products to market، sometimes skimping on privacy features in the process. (You can check online to see if other parents or consumer groups have identified problems.)