Smart hubs have become one of the hottest trends in tech in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why. Powered by sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) high-tech digital assistants like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomeKit offer the ability to control a whole constellation of devices, from lights and thermostats to cameras, security systems and more. These devices also allow you to search the web, check your email, place online orders and handle a variety of other tasks with simple voice commands.
These cutting-edge gadgets also come with a downside, however: many consumers worry about the security of their personal data, and the always-listening nature of smart hubs raises real concerns over privacy in the home. Fortunately, with the proper precautions, many of these fears can be laid to rest. Here are a few crucial things you need to know to keep yourself and your personal information safe when using a smart hub in your home or business.
Practice Holistic Security
If you’re like most users, your smart hub is only one part of your broader network. If you own and use other smart products, it’s essential to focus on securing your entire Internet of Things (IoT) network rather than focusing exclusively on your smart hub. Be aware of each device on your network, what data it records or has access to and how it uses it. Keep all of your devices up to date, change the default passwords and take steps to ensure that each device is as secure as possible. After all, with a closely interconnected IoT, every connection represents a potential security flaw that could be exploited to gain access to the entire network.
Be Aware of Who’s Listening
One of the great things about smart hubs is that they’re always ready to respond at a moment’s notice. However, this also means that your AI assistant is always listening in – even when you’d rather it not. In order to build a more accurate profile of your voice and preferences, your smart hub may record on everything you say, whether or not you use the designated action phrase, such as “Okay Google” or “Alexa.” To remedy this issue, consider muting your hub whenever it’s not in use. While it may be slightly less convenient, it’ll give you peace of mind knowing that you can speak freely without Alexa or Google Assistant eavesdropping.
Stay Updated on Security Threats
When it comes to securing your smart devices, knowledge is often your best line of defense. New attacks and exploits arise quickly, and it’s important to stay updated on the latest security risks in order to keep your devices properly protected. In particular, keeping abreast of emerging risks and recent attacks ensures that you’re aware of critical security patches and software updates that may otherwise not be downloaded and installed quickly enough to protect you. It also allows you to more accurately assess the risks before you divulge personal information.
In recent years, we’ve seen various smart home devices get hacked, and many of these have been found out to be very easily “hackable.” Therefore, it’s important to also do your research before biting the bullet and spending a fortune on devices that do not have the appropriate security measures integrated or that have a history of being vulnerable to attacks. Find the right security cameras for your home that others cannot easily take over to spy on you or use them in any other way against you. We have also seen that even smart thermostats can be susceptible to ransomware, so staying updated on these threats and knowing how to stop or prevent them are imperative.
Employ Defensive Measures
If you choose to share your financial information with your smart hub, such as connecting a credit card or bank account, it’s important that you stay proactive in safeguarding your data. This begins with using strong, unique passwords for each account and device. Even better, consider setting up multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Multi-factor authentication requires a second “factor” in addition to a password – such as a verification code or a biometric security measure – to provide an additional layer of security.
Additionally, be sure to regularly review your security and privacy settings for each device and account that you use. If you own an Amazon Echo product, consider regularly deleting your old recordings. This can be done quickly from the Amazon website, allowing you to delete either individual queries or your entire history.
The voice-controlled digital assistants that power products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are capable of revolutionizing the way we interact with our technology – and with the wider world around us – but they also demand no small degree of caution and vigilance. With the tips above, you’ll have the knowledge and skills you need to use your smart hub with the confidence that your privacy and personal data are properly protected.
About the Author
Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology and personal finance blogs. She graduated with B.A. in communications and media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she continues to live and work.