Two fifths of Brits worry that digital assistants are listening to their secrets

Two-fifths (40%) of Brits have considered their new digital assistants could be listening in on their conversations with over a third (37%) tailoring the way they speak in front of the devices, according to new research from security firm McAfee.

The research also demonstrated that some Brits are already developing quite personal relationships with their digital assistants – a quarter (26%) ask their digital assistant questions they wouldn’t want anyone to know, and nearly half of Brits (46.5%) said they would be embarrassed if their friends and family knew some of the questions they had asked their digital assistant.

In fact, over one in twenty Brits, for example, have asked a digital assistant questions including: “when will I die?”, “how pretty am I?” and “does (name of crush) fancy me?”.  

With this growing amount of personal and private information flowing to and from connected things in consumers’ homes, McAfee believes it’s imperative to secure all devices in the home including new voice-controlled digital assistants, game consoles, home security systems, thermostats and other Internet of Things (IoT) products in order to prevent becoming a target for cybercriminals.

Says Raj Samani, Chief Scientist from McAfee.

“The survey highlights the importance of protecting data – verbal or otherwise – in the home. As our survey shows, everyone loves a gossip, but people must be aware of who and what could be listening, and protect themselves accordingly.

“The reality is that whenever you bring any kind of new connected device into the home, you need to make sure you enjoy using it in the safest and most private way. Our latest survey reveals that a high proportion of Brits have considered devices, as well as people, being able to ‘listen in’ to their private conversations.”

McAfee has recently announced the planned launch of the new McAfee Secure Home Platform skill for Amazon Alexa. This has been designed to give McAfee Secure Home Platform customers the added convenience of simply and conveniently managing their home’s network security using their voice.”

Top tips from McAfee to securely manage connected devices in the home:

  • Consider the Wi-Fi you are using. Using your neighbours’ free WiFi may save you some pennies but using open WiFis, can result in your data being at risk. This is true both at home and when you’re using a public WiFi. Use a virtual private network (VPN) whenever you are considering connecting to an unsecured WiFi in order to help keep your data private.
  • Vary your passwords. 25% of people have shared a password with a partner. Use difficult to crack passwords, ensure you keep passwords secure and update them in a regular basis. Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Simplify password management by using a password manager.
  • Invest in a router that delivers security for all your connected things. It’s important to secure your entire connected home network. McAfee hopes the launch of its McAfee Secure Home Platform skill for Alexa will make this easier and more convenient.
Chris Price