Alexa, Am I Safe?

By Maelisha Kahlbaum, ICS 171 student

Alexa is a form of AI (artificial intelligence) that was designed by Amazon to make everyday tasks like answering questions, setting reminders, make lists, play music, and shopping easier by the sound of the user’s voice. All the user has to say is “Alexa, _______.” According to Amazon, the advanced programming of Alexa has security features built in for data protection, but it doesn’t mean that Alexa is completely bulletproof from cyber-attacks especially if people have it connected to appliances and home security.

There are multiple incidents around the country, where victims (and their family) of cyber-crimes went through months of small terrorizations from playing with their appliances to actually stealing their identity and racking up debt. Most times it will start by the perpetrator gaining access to their Wi-Fi or having a relationship with the victim and allowing themselves into their devices and home. When setting up an Alexa it asks to link various accounts to it, such as their Amazon account, apple music and Ring camera system. It seems innocent but it can result in a breach. Alexa also reads e-mails aloud or placing an online order. Family members or anyone visiting can draw personal information from the device.

Three ways to protect yourself

  1. Device Password Protection:

Most device passwords consist of four to six numbers/letters and it may protect it from some people to gain access but… it’s still hackable. It is a healthy security habit to change passwords every four to six months to become less predictable.

The first password people try is something personal, like a birthday or dog/cat’s name. Tip: Avoid anything personal but it should be memorable.

2. Wi-Fi Encryption Protection:

Same thing for Wi-Fi Passwords it is a healthy security habit to change passwords every four to six months to become less predictable. The first password people try is something personal, like a birthday or dog/cat’s name. It’s also healthy to switch up Wi-Fi names every few months to keep it fresh and confuse hackers who have tried to get in before.

3. Disconnect from Unnecessary Appliances:

Buying Alexa compatible lights seems unnecessary in the sense that you can just use yourself or ask someone to turn the light on/off. If you have an Alexa connected to an appliance that is operatable physically, you should disconnect it. It’s one less appliance that can be used in a cyber-attack. The worst thing to happen is murder by the enemy giving themselves access to the security system or the door locks.

In conclusion, Alexa users are not bullet proof to cyber attacks and can get hit at any point of time, but to avoid this disaster it’s important to take the threat seriously and create a healthy habit of changing passwords and Wi-Fi names and disconnect unnecessary appliances to take away extra ammunition from the enemy and prevent a more serious heinous crime.