When it comes to smart speakers, your firewall offers little protection for your data privacy.
True, firewalls or network traffic protection technologies might protect you from some common forms of online peril. But they won’t stop your smart speaker from sharing information it might overhear. For that, you need a device that effectively blocks your smart speaker from constantly listening. A device that allows it to hear only what you want it to hear. A device like Paranoid.
Here are five ways your smart speaker might compromise your privacy, even with a firewall.
1) Smart speakers offer fertile ground for hackers.
Without Paranoid your device is still vulnerable on the internet, even if you use network protection software. Paranoid provides a layer of protection to block fake update and malware attempts, and even goes so far as to use sound wave updates. That’s cool!
Through a phishing attack, or a cleverly disguised fake “update,” third parties can hijack your smart speaker and put it to work for them. There’s a history of such tactics. For example, in October 2019 Ars Technica demonstrated that Google Home and Alexa apps can trick devices into eavesdropping and phishing passwords.
2) Smart speakers may encrypt data.
In order to function, a smart speaker must interact with online servers. If the data it sends is encrypted, there’s no way to tell what’s being transmitted. Most firewalls rely on a yes/no configuration; once your smart speaker has access to a port, you have no control over what it’s sharing.
With Paranoid installed, you have control over when your smart speaker is listening. Your smart speaker can’t share what it doesn’t hear.
3) A smart speaker may store data in memory and transmit it later, when the opportunity arises.
Data breaches don’t always happen in real time. In addition to wondering about your firewall configuration, you also have to live with the knowledge that the data door isn’t always locked shut. Even if you block data now, you’re going to have to unblock it later—and your smart speaker might send it then.
Again, Paranoid stops your smart speaker from hearing private conversation in the first place.
4) Extra data can easily piggyback on audio files.
When your smart speaker uploads audio files (which is part of its core functionality, after all), those files could conceivably carry hidden data. It’s possible to piggyback information onto an audio stream, where even next-generation firewalls wouldn’t detect it. That information could be retrieved at the other end. There’s no evidence current smart speakers have this functionality, but it’s quite possible to develop it.
Get Paranoid: Limit the audio available to your device.
5) On-board speech recognition could change the game entirely.
Network Traffic Protection systems may not understand speech, but Paranoid understands just enough to stop and start.
Again, while there’s no evidence that current smart speakers have this capacity now, a new attack angle could soon become feasible. As technology gets more powerful, smart speakers could be designed to perform some voice recognition and transcription within the device. If that should happen, a smart speaker could transmit days or months worth of overheard conversation, transcribed accurately enough to be valuable at the other end. Instead of gigabytes of audio files, all that information could be sent with a few hundred kilobytes of text data.
With Paranoid, your smart speaker only listens when you allow it to.
The solution? Get Paranoid.
If you have a smart speaker in your home and want to keep it from eavesdropping, you could simply unplug it. But, that obviously defeats the purpose. You could manually push the mute button whenever you have to say something sensitive, or if you’re worried about your smart speaker listening. But then you have to be disciplined enough to actually push it every time.
Meanwhile, installing a traditional network traffic monitor, or even a next-generation firewall with deep-packet inspection of traffic, does nothing to prevent your smart speaker from sharing personal data.
With Paranoid, your smart speaker will never share sensitive information—because it will never hear it in the first place.