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Alexa Privacy: Harmless App Allows Hackers to Listen to You

Do you regularly download helpful 3rd-party apps? Find out how hackers infiltrated the homes of Alexa users with an app while highlighting Alexa privacy issues.  

As new smart tech emerges that we can’t live without, there’s one thing on many of our minds when we think about Alexa privacy. Are voice assistants listening to us when they shouldn’t be? Does this impact our security?

Undoubtedly, these are smart questions to have when we consider the expanding integration of voice assistants into everything, including business applications.

A recent voice assistant hack from one group demonstrates that we should be aware of potential risks. We’ll look at what those risks are, how companies uncover new threats in the complex world of voice assistants and what company’s like Amazon are doing to address those risks.

Nothing More Harmless Is Getting Your Horoscope

Unless you’re relying on horoscopes to guide your career and personal life, there’s probably nothing more innocuous than viewing what the “stars are telling you”. According to the Smithsonian Institute, an estimated 23% of Americans look at them daily. Many just for fun. Others rely on them.

Recently, hackers exploited this interest in star guidance by creating a horoscope app for Alexa, which allowed them to listen in on households and businesses who’d installed the app.

But as horrifying as this may seem, there is a silver lining.

How White Hat Hackers Keep Us Safe

While the term “hacker” may carry a negative connotation, there are also hacker groups who make it their job to try to infiltrate the devices businesses and individuals trust. And they do it, not to steal your identity. These “ethical” hackers do it to make these technologies safer.

As is the case in many situations, these hackers, known as “white hat hackers”, sent a report outlining the vulnerability to Amazon. Amazon then immediately researched the weakness and put measures in place to prevent hackers with evil intent from using the same virtual window to enter the homes and businesses of Alexa users.

Why Do They Do It

For many, it’s the thrill of the hunt. It’s that dopamine rush you get when you finally solve a complex problem. It’s that feeling when you finally beat a worthy opponent. Or the bragging rights that come along with it.

But these independent hackers may also get paid by the company. Companies like these pay white hat hackers to find their vulnerabilities:

  • Microsoft
  • Spotify
  • Intel
  • Goldman Sachs
  • The US government

For example, in 2016, Facebook paid over $5 million to hackers in India, who identified these kinds of bugs.

Alexa Privacy Concerns: What to Do

Assessing your risks is essential. But we can also rest assured that companies are continually working to address these vulnerabilities. When they find one, they generally create a patch. Customers must often download those patches to erase the vulnerability. So install updates quickly, especially security ones.

Ultimately, you need to stay informed about Alexa privacy and other security concerns. To keep up-to-date on risks and the latest business technology innovations, follow our blog.

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