Kayla Matthews

@KaylaEMatthews

6 Ways to Make Your Smart Speakers More Secure

February 23rd 2018

Smart speakers have become rampantly popular, with manufacturers promoting them as the gadgets that could permanently make our lives easier and change the way we use technology. However, some tech-minded people in the know have also understandably wondered about potential hacking risks.

Although no steps you take can guarantee the prevention of hacker infiltration, these six easy but effective solutions can make your smart speakers more secure.

1. Remove Sensitive Data Stored on Accounts Associated With the Speakers

To make things easier for users, Google and Amazon both make it possible for you to keep purchase data associated with the accounts you use for their smart speakers. Because of this, you don’t have to go through the entire process of entering credit card details each time. However, having your payment details stored adds value to hackers, so you may decide it’s best not to keep your credit card information stored.

It’s simple to turn off payment functionality on the Google Home speaker, as well as any devices that use Amazon Alexa. Keep in mind though, Alexa requires one-click purchasing to remain active for voice purchases. So, if you disable it, you can’t buy things with your smart speaker.

2. Train the Speaker to Recognize Different Voices

There have been eye-opening tales of unauthorized people making purchases through Alexa via Amazon’s smart speakers — there was even an instance of a talking parrot making a purchase.

More recently, Amazon released a capability that allows owners to train the smart speakers to recognize different voices after an individual user speaks ten phrases to teach the system. Google does the same with its Voice Match feature.

If you have a different kind of smart speaker, it’s worth investigating to see if it offers something similar, or if plans are in the works to launch it soon. Many other devices besides smart speakers are also depending on voice-based security measures. The fact that the leading smart speakers recognize several voices is indicative of how manufacturers realize the uniqueness of vocal qualities.

3. Regularly View and Delete Stored Voice Snippets

Amazon and Google allow you to see the material a smart speaker has picked up and stored over time. Get into the habit of checking out the voice clips associated with you as time progresses. If you notice some that have details you want to be kept private, get rid of them by following the steps each brand provides in its help documentation.

4. Think Carefully Before Linking Accounts to Your Smart Speaker

The Google Home can work seamlessly with all the accounts you have associated with Google’s services. Similarly, Alexa offers skills that allow you to connect the accounts of third-party services to your Amazon smart speaker and thereby increase its capabilities.

Instead of blindly connecting other services to your smart speaker just because you can, consider the possible ramifications that could result if a hacker gains access to the gadget.

Just like you might decide it’s best not to keep payment information stored, you could also realize it’s not worth putting additional account details in the device’s memory that could give cybercriminals too much access.

5. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (TFA) When Possible

When you do connect third-party services to your smart speaker, investigate whether they offer two-factor authentication (TFA). That process gives more robust security than a process that only requires providing one identifying piece of information, such as a password.

Recently, Nest, a smart home brand that’s compatible with Amazon and Google’s smart speakers began offering TFA for improved account security. If other services you use with your gadgets do too, it’s a good idea to turn TFA on within your account settings.

6. Turn off the Speaker When You’re Not Using It

Yes, it’s a little inconvenient to have to keep turning your smart speaker on when you want to use it and deactivating it when you’re done, but that precaution could ensure the gadget doesn’t listen to the things you say when you’re not aware of it.

Amazon assures customers its speakers only respond to commands after owners say the wake word, but even that is assuming there are no security vulnerabilities.

Also, people interested in computer security and data transmission have performed experiments to see which data Amazon transmits and when, with the goal of finding out whether the speakers send data when they’re in silent mode. But, because the material is encrypted, they weren’t able to determine the answer.

As you can see from these six simple-to-implement tips, you may not be able to secure your smart speakers in all cases, but it’s possible to make it harder for hackers to succeed.

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