The Spy Who Watched Me — HELP !
Just in 2017, we have had 3 high profile cases of electronic surveillance in homes — the kind that you did not even know existed. If you are scratching your head, let me explain.
The most notorious one is the one involving Alexa from Amazon. The murder incident investigation, is really about the voice recordings the Amazon Echo device may have recorded in the house of the accused where the alleged murder took place. And the fight between Amazon and Arkansas prosecutors about turning over that data. Now most Echo owners are blissfully unaware of what their trusted device may be recording in the background, much less where this data is stored and under what circumstances it could be handed to a law enforcement authority or god forbid be hacked and compromised!
The second one was involving the innocuous sounding CloudPets. These internet enabled plush toys provide a great source of amusement & entertainment to kids and their grandparents (the target audience) by enabling them to talk to each other over the Internet. What’s not to like? A lot! Because where these recordings are stored and who can get to them either because they are not password protected (at a minimum) or the password and security perimeter is so weak that they can be easily breached. As many as 2 million voice recordings were leaked as a result.
And finally, the most recent debacle involved the Cayla doll — a Bluetooth enabled doll. By now you must be getting the drift!! These toys use an unsecure Bluetooth chip that can easily be compromised to spy on all conversations. The German authorities — not wanting to take any chances — have advised parents to destroy the doll (yes — take a hammer and smash the doll!).
So, the electronic surveillance I talked about earlier is really the unsavory and the intrusive kind as the past examples illustrate. We have welcomed the Internet into our homes and it is only going to get worse — think refrigerators, webcam, TV, thermostats, doorbells etc. So, what is a consumer to do? Go back to the basics. Think hard about all your electronic devices at home and whether or not they need to be connected to the Internet. And if the answer is Yes, make it a point to keep up with software updates & security news and be prepared to act depending on the circumstances aka disconnect the device, turn off Internet access etc.
Yes, convenience trumps everything. Except when it is a spy in your own home recording your kids’ conversation and your private life! At that point, we need to say Enough!