The Amazon Echo is a marvelous little device that can make any room in your home a more clever place. But does this new smart device come with potential security risks? We discuss 12 dangers of Amazon Echo in this post, so keep reading.
1. Placing Your Echo In The Wrong Place
Being a friendly smart device, it may seem like you can place your Echo anywhere in your home and everything will be fine. However, if you put your Echo in the wrong place you could be exposing it and yourself to some security risks. So, you must carefully consider if your Echo could be used by an unwanted individual just by its location in your home.
Places to put your Echo:
- Tucked into a corner
- On a kitchen island
- In a bedroom
- In a game room
- In a TV room (away from the TV)
- On a shelf
- Mounted on a wall
Places to not put your Amazon Echo:
- Near a toilet, sink, or bathtub
- Near a window
- Too close to a TV
Near a window
If your Echo is too close to an open window, an intruder could use it without your consent by eavesdropping and recording your voice.
Near a toilet, sink, or bathtub
Toilets, sinks, and bathtubs pose similar problems for the Echo. If you knock it sideways, bump it, or it somehow slides during an earthquake, it could land in water and short circuit. It is recommended to keep your Echo away from water or fluids of any kind, similar to other electronic devices.
Using sticky tape on its underside, or mounting it on a wall could work to keep it from falling or sliding off the countertop.
Kitchen sinks also could damage an echo, even if it is not nearby. A sink water sprayer can easily slip out of your control and spray your echo with water.
Too close to your TV
A commercial for the amazon echo can actually activate your own echo! Just saying a name that slightly resembles “Alexa” from a TV show or advertisement could get your Echo’s attention. This can start the process of recording all sounds and voices that occur in the room. This could risk your privacy if the Echo manages to be hacked or connect with dangerous servers online and share your recordings.
So, keep your Echo off to the side of the room away from where your TV is located.
2. The Echo Can Secretly Record Your Conversations
The Amazon Echo’s primary way of risking your privacy is through recording your voice and conversations. It is built to be an always-listening device, giving it convenience as a home assistant. But any command that starts the Echo’s recording process will store your data. If an external agent or group manages to access these recordings, your data and privacy will be compromised. All smart speaker devices are subject to this risk, including the Apple Homepod and Google Home. The user must take extra precautions when placing their Echo in there home to minimize this chance.
3. KRACK Attacks
KRACK attacks are a type of Wi-Fi network attack that targets vulnerabilities in the WPA2 standard. These have been visibly active since 2017 and exploit weaknesses in the “four-way handshake” method of verifying the credentials of clients, their access points, and the encryption key for traffic. Even with corporate security updates for network hardware and devices, this type of cyber threat still exists.
For the Amazon Echo, two vulnerabilities to KRACK attacks have been spotted so far.
4. Broadcast Replay Attacks
Amazon Echos are also vulnerable to broadcast replay attacks where a cybercriminal or hacker can delay or repeat the transmission of valid data. This can allow them to masquerade as a legitimate party in the data exchange and gain access to your Echo.
Both broadcast replay attacks and KRACK attacks are rare because they require the perpetrators to be in a local vicinity of the Wi-Fi network.
Amazon Has Patched The Echo
Since these vulnerabilities have been spotted, Amazon’s security team has patched the Echo. However, keeping your Echo’s firmware up to date is highly recommended to keep it protected.
In fact, it is a good idea to continue to update your Amazon Echo even if it seems to be working fine.
5. Router Attacks and Failures
Routers are critical points of failure when it comes to hackers. So, Amazon Echo owners should also create very strong passwords for their routers and change them regularly. If there are unknown devices connected to the router, have them removed.
6. The Camera Could Be Watching You
New Echo devices have a camera installed and if it gets compromised could monitor and store your daily activities. These could be used against you by an outside agent. These videos can provide all sorts of detailed information regarding your habits, lifestyle, and identity.
7. Echos Are Always Listening
The microphone that listens to your voice commands is always turned on as part of its normal functioning. However, if hacked, the Echo could be transmitting your voice to another device or remote criminal servers for later use. If you have detailed personal, financial, or legal discussions in the vicinity of your echo, these could be recorded and used by a hacker.
8. The Drop-In Feature May Be A Problem
Depending on which one you choose, your Amazon Echo may include a built-in camera and even a screen. However, the Drop-In feature included with this can pose a threat to your privacy.
Drop-In allows the user to call anyone they know without the other person confirming it like a normal phone call. Enabling Drop-In for one of your contacts will let you see video from their Echo after the frozen view screen ends. This obviously poses a security risk for your contacts!
Drop-In is useful for parents that may want to check in on their young children or elderly parents. But this produces a privacy concern regardless if a guest uses it to Drop-In one of your contacts. So for extra convenience, Echo users that use Drop-In will give up some of their privacy.
9. Advertisers Could Use Your Data Streams
The camera and microphones included with Echos and other smart devices can allow a dangerous company (even Amazon) or government to spy on you.
If your address book is shared, your Echo can record a conversation you are having and email it to one of your contacts.
Amazon looked into the issue and figured out that Alexa had not been hacked, but had picked up on a string of commands spoken within a group conversation in the room.
How to Stop Echo From Recording Your Conversations
The “Alexa” command is usually enough to get the Echo’s attention and have its mic activated. Alexa will constantly scan your nearby conversations for any words that will trigger a command. Only turning the Echo off or removing it from your home will guarantee this will not happen.
However, there are a few actions you can take to prevent this:
- Make a different wake word
- Be careful of which words you use
- Mute the Echo when not using it
- Move it to another location in your home
10. No Hacking Needed For Eavesdropping
The Echo does not require hacking for it to eavesdrop on your conversations. A stranger or bystander can intentionally or otherwise just use the system Amazon has put in place. Just the right string of words following the “Alexa” command can get the Echo to start recording. Private conversations can be later sent to a remote server where they may be used for malicious purposes.
11. Dangerous Alexa “Skills”
Alexa is vulnerable to a type of attack most often used in smartphones and other mobile devices. This involves creating an app, or “skill”, and uploading it to Amazon’s Skill Store. This app can be designed with a front-facing function, such as a flashlight or compass, and then record any words spoken during a session. Alexa skills can be programmed to recognize any string of words or commands so an entire conversation can be recorded. These can continue operating even after the user thinks their Echo has stopped recording. This type of attack is very rare, however, so most users do not need to be as worried about it compared to other threats.
12. EMF Radiation is A Serious Concern
The Amazon Echo is a sensational little machine that can provide you with many practical assistants in your daily life. However, with all its benefits, another danger may lurk within and around its range in your home: Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF.)
Actually, the Amazon Echo is not the only device or machine in your home that will emit EMF radiation. The Wifi device, router, and Internet of things devices can also possibly cause health issues.
Health consequences that EMF radiation can cause include:
- Sleep Loss
- Early Ageing
- Childhood issues
- Reproductive issues
- Brain fog
- Regular illness
- Hormone imbalances
- Adrenal fatigue (HPA axis dysfunction)
- Increased risk of cancer (see below!)
- Reproductive issues
- Cellular damage
- DNA breaks
Some studies have been done that link EMF exposure to specific health issues, such as bone density disruption.
The human body is capable of absorbing naturally low levels of EMF radiation created by nature. However, when this is produced in large quantities or over an extended period of time, health issues can result. These involve people of all ages including babies, adults, and older individuals of both genders.
Most EMF radiation, at least before the digital revolution, came from natural events such as thunderstorms. However, in today’s online connected world, EMF radiation is much more man-made.
However, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family without getting rid of your Amazon Echo.
Amazon Echo EMF Levels
The Amazon Echo will not produce high levels of EMF radiation. In fact, if you use it regularly, you will only receive small amounts of it. So the quantity of EMF exposure is important in determining the risks.
But adding this exposure up with everyday usage of the Echo and other devices makes for a lot of EMF radiation hitting your family. The health effects will be more likely to appear if this occurs.
WiFi Communication Causes EMF Radiation
Since the Echo relies upon a wireless connection with the WiFi, it’s the communication between the two that causes most issues.
Wireless Routers Are Also EMF Culprits
Wireless routers can possibly cause brainwave damage, so using an eco-router or shield is recommended. If not, then you can try turning the router off when not in use. However, this may not be practical as many routers reset and need to be logged in to make active when they are turned off. Anyone who has dealt with routers knows how temperamental they can be!
Instead, you can try using a shielded bag for your router which will protect you more but cause some signal loss.
No One Knows How Bad EMF’s Are Becoming
There is a basic lack of testing data surrounding EMF exposure due to online devices such as Amazon Echos, so no one really knows the long term society-wide health affects.
Many devices never receive proper EMF testing or reviews before they are released to the public, so most users may already have a dangerous device in their home or pocket. It is widely understood, however, that the closer you are to an Echo, the higher the EMF exposure will be. Although some studies declare that low-level EMF exposure from devices will not cause any significant health damage. So, it is up to users of these devices to decide how often they want to use them.
How to Protect Yourself From Echo EMF Radiation
- Only use wired connections using ethernet cables
- Avoid having Wifi in your home
- Use only eco-routers or shields
- Limit your device time
- Keep the Echo away from beds or sitting areas
- Keep the Echo away from child play areas
Use an Echo Ethernet Adapter
A type C USB ethernet adapter should do the trick and allow you to connect your Echo to an ethernet cable.
Echos, EMF’s, and Children
Children love to explore and pick things up they find and play with them. Echos are prime targets for children’s curiosity and enjoyment. So, to keep them from being exposed to EMF radiation, consider keeping an eye on them while they play and do not let them touch the device. Also, consider placing the Echo alone on a shelf that children cannot reach.
Move the Echo Far Enough Away From You
Moving the Echo away from your sleeping or play area will still allow Alexa to hear your voice while keeping you protected from EMFs.
EMFs can travel through walls and other solid objects like flower pots, tables, chairs, and televisions. EMF’s travel in a similar way that WiFi does when it sends and receives data. So plan to arrange your home accordingly based on this. You could move furniture and beds around to make the distance further between you and the Echo or router.
Turn Devices Off When Not In Use
This is an option to consider when you are planning to sleep. Turning off devices while you are not using them can greatly minimize the amount of EMFs you receive in your home. However, this all depends on whether you need your phone turned on for emergencies. Doing this can also save household energy, and your electricity bill may drop.
Handling EMFs safely requires being proactive when using and setting up your Amazon Echo.
The Amazon Echo is a marvelous little device that can save you time when performing daily tasks in your home or office. However, it is not without risks to the privacy and health of you and your family. Following the tips mentioned in this post can help keep you and your family safe from the dangers of the Amazon Echo, while also enjoying its benefits.
For related information, read our post What is Biometric Security?