“OK Google™, set a timer for 20 minutes.” “Alexa™, play a party playlist.” “Hey Siri®, call Mom.” What’s not to love about digital assistants? They help make our lives more organized, efficient and connected. And, thanks to smart speakers like Google Home™, Amazon Echo™ and Apple® HomePod™, they’re always just a shout away. But can these all-knowing devices sometimes know a little too much about us? Here’s how to make sure your digital assistant stays secure.
1. Be selective about what you connect.
Smart speakers can act as hubs for other devices in your home such as your lights, thermostat and television. But you might want to think twice before extending this convenience to your front door or security camera. By connecting security devices to your smart speaker, you leave these devices more open to vulnerabilities, potentially raising the chances of your systems being hacked or exploited. Limit potential vulnerabilities by setting devices to update automatically, ensuring that they’re running on the most current software version.
2. Don’t share sensitive information.
Digital assistants record anything after their respective command phrase is said (such as “OK Google”) and send it to a server to parse the data and answer your request. Your voice recording can be stored for months or even years, which helps improve your results, but is also a privacy risk. To avoid the potential threat of having your voice data hacked or mined for passwords, credit card details or other sensitive information, take care not to share sensitive information and make sure to delete past recordings.
3. Strengthen your network security.
What type of wireless network is your smart speaker connected to? Check the settings of your Wi-Fi router and make sure you’re using password-protected WPA2 security, the most secure encryption method widely available. Never rely on default passwords—instead, set custom passwords for your router and Wi-Fi network that follow recommended password guidelines, using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. If possible, set up a guest Wi-Fi network for unsecured devices to help contain potential security exploits. Use strong passwords for the associated Amazon, Google or Apple accounts as well, opting to use multi-factor authentication if possible.
4. Restrict purchasing access.
The viral stories of toddlers using smart speakers to purchase expensive toys can be humorous, but there’s also a lesson to learn. To prevent rambunctious children, prankster friends or malicious strangers from making purchases with your smart speaker, set up a purchase password and keep it a secret.
5. Turn off personalized results.
Your smart speaker may provide an option to give specialized results from your email, calendar, contacts or shopping list. Limit access to this data by turning off “personal results” or an equivalent feature on your device.
6. Enable voice recognition.
Some smart devices provide support for voice recognition, meaning they can identify if a voice is yours or not. Turn this feature on so your digital assistant will limit personal data and purchase power to your voice.
7. Keep an eye on your email inbox.
If a purchase is somehow made on your device that you didn’t authorize, a notification email should be waiting in your inbox to inform you. From there, you can take steps to cancel the order.
8. Mute the microphone.
Not currently using your smart speaker? Mute it. Muting between uses can stop your smart speaker from turning on when it mishears something as its wake command. This can prevent accidental and malicious recordings.
At Navy Federal Credit Union, account security is our top priority. We stay up to date on the latest security and technology trends and share that information with our members. Learn more by visiting our Security Center.