TURNING your Amazon Alexa off is pointless – because your whole home is spying on you.
Cyber-experts have told The Sun that we're now surrounded by gadgets that see, hear and log what we do offline.
Last week, we revealed how it's basically impossible to stop Alexa from recording private conversations.
It came after a former Amazon exec admitted that works do listen to your conversations through Alexa.
You could disable the microphone on your Alexa speakers most of the time – but that won't solve anything.
"Simply turning off Alexa won't make the problem go away," said Sam Curry, a security expert at Cybereason, speaking to The Sun.
"More and more devices are coming with more and more benefits.
"We live in a world where potentially everything has a camera and microphone, and maybe other sensors as time progresses.
"If something is too good to be true or even free, you're the product.
"And if you're the product, who is the real buyer and what is the real cost to you?
"For the youngest generations, this is hardest as they take for granted the benefits of the connected world."
Amazon says it doesn't use recordings of your speech for advertising.
But the same may not be true for rogue manufacturers of other gadgets.
And even if Amazon's intentions are wholesome, the firm can't guarantee that it will never be hacked, or experience a leak.
Amazon stores your Alexa recordings, and sometimes sends those voice clips off to humans.
This creates a privacy nightmare, as these conversations can be private – mistakenly picked up by Alexa.
"Leaks are inevitable," Sam told us.
It's not just Alexa: plenty of devices are capable of recording what we say or do.
And each one of those has the potential to be compromised, according to cyber-expert Hugo van den Toorn, of Outpost 24.
"Not just smart speakers, but also smartphones, smart cameras, smart TVs, smart remotes," Hugo told The Sun.
"Any smart device wants a part of your information in exchange for 'enhancing' your life.
"I personally think this is not one big privacy nightmare, but it will end up being many independent smaller nightmares."
Part of the problem for everyday gadget users is that more and more household appliances are becoming "smart".
This means we might often forget that our refrigerators, lightbulbs and heaters are connected to the internet.
And that leaves users who aren't tech-savvy at risk.
"When it makes the user's life easier and it works, it is often used but 'forgotten' just like other (dumb) appliances," Hugo explained.
"And we cannot blame users for that, as there is an awareness gap.
"Users are not thought to check their ovens for updates, so even if an update is provided, users will probably never realise the the risk of exposure is growing.
"And the more we accept these devices in their current states into our lives, the greater this exposure grows probably with very few of its users being aware of the dangers."
Turning the microphone off – is it just too hard?
Here's what cyber-expert Tim Mackey, of Synopsys, told The Sun…
- "While users of voice activated devices appreciate the convenience they provide, those same users rarely think of the potential security issues associated with persistent recordings.
- "This is due in large part to the convenience factor provided by the devices.
- "Assuming a device has a manual off switch for its microphone, that will only be effective protection for voice recordings, but will require the user to manually enable the microphone as required.
- "Eventually the self-imposed usability speed bump will become sufficiently inconvenient with the result the microphone remains on indefinitely."
Responding to last week's comments from a former Amazon exec over Alexa privacy fears, Amazon provided this statement: "It is surprising that someone who left Amazon 14 years ago is being quoted, about a technology that was developed a decade after he left. His quotes do not accurately portray how Alexa works.
"We take privacy very seriously at Amazon and designing Alexa was no different.
"Echo devices are designed to detect only your chosen wake word. No audio is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake word.
"Customers can review and delete voice recordings at any time in the Alexa App, as well as, choose to have them automatically deleted every 3 or 18 months on an ongoing basis."
In other news, we reveal the best Alexa tips and tricks.
A terrified mum says her Amazon Echo speaker urged her to kill herself.
And Amazon recently launched an Alexa ring and a smart oven.
Do you trust Amazon to protect your privacy? Let us know in the comments!
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