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Cybersecurity experts warn using home smart speakers can leave certain people vulnerable

Cybersecurity experts warn using home smart speakers can leave certain people vulnerable

A cybersecurity expert has raised concerns about a certain type of person having a smart speaker in their home.

Smart speakers have become part of the fabric of our lives.

We'd be lost without them - from asking them to play music to setting a timer while you're cooking, you can't deny how helpful they are.

But now a cybersecurity expert has warned against prominent people having smart speakers in their homes.

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Sadie Creese, professor of cybersecurity at Oxford University, talked about smart speakers while giving evidence to UK MPs on the science and technology select committee.

Creese was asked whether she thought smart speakers were a security risk and if she had one in her own home.

“Asking me if I have smart speakers is a little bit like asking for my password. So I won’t comment on that," Creese said.

In fact, she went so far as to say: “If you are a person in a significant leadership position, where a threat might have an interest in targeting you to coerce you into doing something, or threaten you so that you would do something that could harm your organization or your family, anything - any devices that give away how you live - will make you more targetable."

She said she doesn't recommend prominent people have one in their homes: "Just like I would advise against putting a camera up in their living room. It just potentially gives an attacker more information about them that can be used to craft targeted attacks.”

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Smart speakers are always on - waiting to pick up any command you might throw their way - potentially picking up data around how you live, and some experts have raised concerns around cybersecurity and whether these devices can be hacked.

But before you chuck yours out the window, Creese did add that this doesn't apply to "the vast majority of people" - she's just referring to high-profile individuals, potentially in leadership positions.

A 2020 report from American cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks found that 57% of devices in the so-called 'internet of things' - this means any devices that are connected and can share information with other devices or networks, like smart speakers - are vulnerable to medium or high severity attacks. The company suggested this made devices on the internet of things 'low-hanging fruit for attackers'.

So is there anything you can do to protect yourself? As Creese said, the average Joe doesn't need to be too concerned about their smart speaker getting hacked.

But cybersecurity expert Professor Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey suggested there's one important thing you can do. He told you should aim to buy a smart speaker from one of the major recognized brands, saying that in cheaper replicas, "Security will have been lower on the design agenda - you get what you pay for".

And you should never assume you're safe.

He added: "The issue with most [smart devices] is that you are unlikely to know if it has been compromised. So to be truly safe, you should assume it has been compromised. Despite what some vendors tell you, nothing is 100% secure or unhackable."

Featured Image Credit: blackCAT/andresr/Getty