By 2020, an estimated 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate digital assistants or chat bot technology into their workflows. By 2021, an estimated 1.8 billion people are projected to use digital assistants worldwide.

Digital assistants (a.k.a. smart assistants) make people’s lives easier, often functioning as the central communication hub for smart home devices, and they “…essentially become the cornerstone of the smart home experience.”

At least, until people grow paranoid about them. Is there any legitimacy to the widespread fear of being spied on?

Like any technological toy, digital assistants can be hacked and transformed into eavesdropping devices.

A recent report also shines light on the fact that in a small percentage of cases, the employees of a device’s manufacturer (real humans), do listen to what’s going on in a user’s environment, with the objective of enhancing users’ experiences across the board.

Former Russian world chess champion Garry Kasparov jokes that in the modern age, KGB spies would have an easy life, as digital assistants would do the work for them. No breaking an entry required at all.

If digital assistants aren’t entirely secure, is there anything that we can do? Fortunately, yes. Take a look at this list of tips to help keep the digital assistant in your home and/or workplace safe from hackers:

  1. Think about where you’re planting your digital assistant. Refrain from keeping the device near a window, or in another location that can be easily accessed from your home’s exterior.
  2. Change your device’s ‘wake word’ to one that you seldom use. This way, if your ‘wake word’ is “sunshine,” for example, your device won’t accidentally turn on as you begin talking to your spouse about the sunshine predicted for next Saturday.
  3. A vital component of strategically securing your digital assistant is securing your entire network. To accomplish this feat, don’t fall into the trap of using default passwords, avoid sharing your password with friends and neighbors, and create a two-factor authentication system if possible.

Presently, there are no standards for securing IOT devices, although the state of California recently introduced The Smart Speaker Privacy Act, AB1395, to the state legislature. The bill would force manufacturers to remove the possibility of eavesdropping from devices, in entirety.

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