As Americans increasingly fill their homes with smart technology, the risk of hackers exploiting their devices is growing.
Experts say the expanding ecosystem of internet-connected devices such as smart thermostats, home security systems and electric door locks are increasingly susceptible to hackers, including those trying to leverage voice-command devices.
This risk is further compounded if an individual stores sensitive data on certain internet-connected products, like a credit card number or mailing address, which a hacker may be able to gain access to through other connected devices.
One incident that drew particular attention this week highlighted some of the privacy fears surrounding voice-controlled devices and how they can operate seemingly independently of their owners’ intentions.
A woman in Portland, Ore., said her Amazon Echo recorded a private conversation she had with her husband and then sent an audio file of the recording to someone in the couple’s contact list.
An Amazon spokesperson explained that the device had misinterpreted a series of words in a background conversation as commands, leading the Echo in question to send the recording.
While the incident — described as extremely rare — did not apparently involve an active third-party, it added to renewed scrutiny over how voice-controlled devices can operate outside their owners’ intent and how they might be exploited by hackers.
A group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, detailed in a paper earlier this month how they could embed hidden commands into text or music recordings, which could then get picked up by smart devices that have their microphones enabled. More…