Are Your Toys, Car or TV Watching You?

Technology has led to many amazing and convenient inventions that make our lives easier in almost every way. But all of this innovation comes at a price that isn’t measured in dollars. This of course is privacy. Tech2U is here to today to talk about Technology Spying.

Any device that uses voice recognition to control features has the potential to invade your privacy. The device has to capture your voice and analyze it to interpret what you said and do the action corresponding to what you said. The problem is that this voice capture has to constantly be listening to see if anything being said is within its feature list. This information can then be sent to the companies servers to be stored and sold to other companies for advertisement purposes.

You may be thinking that a company doing this for advertisement purposes isn’t too concerning, but when we start thinking of other uses for this spying, the ramifications become clear. This technology can and will be used for surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, identification and more. Most people don’t want a 3rd party to know whether or not they are home or not and since these hardware manufacturers uselessly scrim on the security, it is not difficult for a criminal to monitor your actions as well.

Any device that has an integrated camera or microphone has the potential to spy on you. This can include Smart TVs, gaming systems, laptops, and even children toys. As we mentioned above, Smart TV’s and newer gaming consoles have to constantly listen for your voice and send this back to there servers to be analyzed further. This behavior can even be found in baby monitors and home surveillance cameras such as Logi Camera and Nest’s security video hardware who stores captured videos for up to 30 days. These automation products gather tons of data and try to learn your behaviors to better suite your needs. The problem is, they store this data and often times they keep it on unsecured systems that are vulnerable to hackers.

The kids manufacturer VTech exposed upwards of 4.8 million children last year with a data breach. The breach leaked names, addresses, email address and secret questions and answers to there users. On top of that, the passwords were not encrypted despite VTech’s claims. Mattel’s Hello Barbie doll has internet access and responds to the child via voice that is sent from Mattel’s servers. When connected to Wi-Fi, the doll is vulnerable to hacking and a criminal could potentially say anything over the dolls voice routine. Users should always be cautious of any GPS or internet enabled childs device as they could always be vulnerable to attack.

To better protect yourself from unwanted attack you can invest in a total home security system like Bitdefender Box. Bitdefender Box will run alongside your router and protect the devices that you can’t install anti-virus programs on such as your refrigerator, TV, or Xbox. Although this solution does cover you from unwanted access and viruses on your appliances, it still cannot prevent those devices from sending data back to there servers. The only real way to prevent this is to simply not use any Smart devices.

 

App of the Week:

Tech2U’s app of the week is Sky Guide. Just hold your phone’s camera up to the sky and the app will automatically identify stars, constellations, planets and more. The app will also overlay this information over your actual view of the sky and give you detailed information about what you are looking at. The app can be found on iOS for $2.99.

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Video transcript:

Interviewer: Mike Wysby from Tech 2U is here to talk about how your smart devices may be spying on you. Mike, welcome to the program. So how can a TV that recognizes your voice spy on you? How does that go?

Mike: Well, those kinds of TVs actually have a microphone in them and what it’s doing is it’s trying to engage with you so it’s always listening out. That microphone is always on. So that data is stored and it can be shared, especially if you have devices that are compatible with that TV.

Interviewer: Okay so what can you do about that?

Mike: Well, what you can do is you could basically…Sorry, you just caught me off guard there. So basically the reason that that’s the concern is that James Clapper who is the U.S. Director of National Intelligence has said that, in the future, that stored technology data can be used for identification surveillance and even more. So it’s really concerning because of that. And also, the data that’s gathered from similar systems like Bluetooth entry systems or smart thermostats in your home make it very easy for you to work out basically when you’re not home. So these hardware companies really need to ensure that the data it’s storing on you is secure.

Interviewer: But there’s so much of that technology now that it’s just kind of like the horse has left the barn. And I…

Mike: Exactly.

Interviewer: And I know people are wondering you’re from?

Mike: I’m from London, England.

Interviewer: London, okay.

Mike: We have the same problem there as well.

Interviewer: Yeah, people think we have accents. I thought you were from England or perhaps Atlanta, Georgia. No just kidding. So going forward on this what can users do about this to maintain their privacy while still having all the fun toys?

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. So what I would do is just be very, very wary of anything you have connected to the Internet because those devices, especially the ones with the integrated cameras. They can actually record you or take snaps of you without your permission. So just if you’re not using it and it’s connected to the Internet, just switch it off or disconnect the Internet from that device. You can do that by using airplane mode on like phones for example and tablets.

Interviewer: Okay, okay, airplane mode on phones is the first thing people can do that…

Mike: Exactly. That just disconnects you.

Interviewer: That’s the most used thing, yeah.

Mike: Yeah exactly. And the other thing you can do is invest in a thing called a Bitdefender Box.

Interviewer: Bitdefender Box? Okay.

Mike: Bitdefender Box. It’s about $100 on Amazon.com and what it does is it sits alongside your router and it monitors the incoming and outgoing traffic, and it will basically act like an anti-virus for anything that you can’t install anti-virus on. So that’s a nice thing to have but it’s only going to protect your home. Anything you take outside of your home like tablets or phones, you’re just going to have to be wary of connecting to the Internet in a public Wi-Fi for example. Just turn it off if you’re not using it if you want complete peace of mind.

Interviewer: Okay. App of the week. Everybody likes the end of the bit here where we get to the app of the week.

Mike: Yes. So the app of the week this week is the Sky Guide. Now the Sky Guide is a really cool thing. You can hold your phone up to the sky and what it will do is to use the camera image and overlay a beautiful, rendered image of identifying all the stars, the constellations, and the planets. And it’s a really educational too. It goes into real depth about the stars and the age of the star and you know, how old the image is that you’re seeing and all those kind of good things. It’s really educational. And it’s only 2.99 on the App Store.

Interviewer: Not bad. I like that. So which of Prince Charles’ two sons would be your favorite? Do you have a favorite of the two? Do people root for one over the other?

Mike: As a British subject, I’m not allowed to disclose that information.

Interviewer: Really is that classified?

Mike: Absolutely classified and I could be…

Interviewer: You could be hunted down by…

Mike: I could be hunted down, yes.

Interviewer: Wow. By James Bond maybe?

Mike: I could be spied on with my smartphone.

Interviewer: I like that. Okay, you passed the test, Mike. Thank you.

Mike: Thank you.

Interviewer: Tech 2U. All right, Amy, over to you.

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