How To Prevent Smart Devices From Leaking Your Data

by | Oct 15, 2019 | Press Release

The latest IoT news often touches on the security concerns you might face if you have a connected home packed with smart devices.

While IoT companies in Europe and throughout the world are constantly churning out new tech, are they taking enough care to protect you and your data?

We’ll glimpse at this thorny issue today. First thing’s first, though, is the security of smart devices really a valid concern.

Do Security Leaks Really Happen?

To answer this question, you only need to glance at some of the troubling stories that have dominated the news over the past 18 months. They might not crop up in an IoT press release, but they’ve certainly gained their fair share of column inches in the press.

  • Alexa Eavesdropping: Last year when a German Amazon user asked for data, he received 1700 audio recordings of someone he did not know. Strangely enough, the man did not even own an Echo device. An American woman discovered that Alexa had sent a recorded conversation between her and her partner to one of his employees. It’s also common knowledge that Amazon staff listen to recorded audio, so data is certainly seeping out from these smart speakers.
  • Ring Compromising User Security: Amazon-owned security specialist Ring is working with hundreds of police departments across the US. Police can request footage from user’s video doorbells, but these requests are routinely ignored. Ring is believed to informed law enforcement agencies about users who declined such requests.
  • Google Home Voice Security Breach: Google Home smart speakers and the Chromecast device can reveal your precise geographical location to an accuracy of 30 feet or so. While unlikely to leave you open to someone with dishonorable intentions, this nevertheless compromises the trust factor of your home network. Google were also left red-faced as 1000 conversations recorded from Google Home devices were leaked.

There’s no element of doubt that data can leak from IoT devices, but how is this information being shared exactly?

How Do IoT Devices Obtain and Share Your Data?

A recent IoT privacy study examined how 81 common smart devices shared the data mined. The US and UK-based researchers conducted almost 35,000 experiments to get a better handle on how data is disseminated.

The results might surprise even those already wary about privacy issues. Fully 72 of the 81 IoT devices tested shared data with unrelated third-parties. While much of this information was unimportant basics, more sensitive data like IP addresses, location data, usage habits and configurations were also shared.

Beyond this, the manner in which data is shared is also troubling. Generally, data is sent as a plaintext file meaning it’s entirely unencrypted. This leaves the raw data vulnerable to anyone eavesdropping on the flow.

So, if you have Internet of Things devices in your home, you really can’t be confident that your personal information will remain personal.

We’ll round out with a glimpse at some of the devices that leave you most exposed to privacy concerns.

Devices That Can Leak Your Data

While almost any IoT device right down to your Internet router can leave your data at risk, here are the 4 main culprits in terms of privacy concerns:

  • Smart Speakers
  • Smart TVs
  • Streaming Devices
  • Video Doorbells

Smart Speakers

All major smart speakers have been involved in data breaches.

The always-on listening nature of any device always introduces a heightened chance of that data being compromised, so be careful what you say when Alexa or Google Assistant is listening.

Smart TVs

Smart TVs were shown in a Princeton study to capture data using smart pixels. Information about your viewing habits is then shared with third-parties.

Streaming Devices

The same study showed that 69% of Roku channels and 89% Of Amazon Fire TV channels included tracking to collect user data.

Video Doorbells

Ring doorbells record every time someone moves in front of them, which is only disclosed deep in the privacy policy.

How, then, can you protect yourself against this modern threat?

How to Defend Yourself Against These Threats

We’re not here to lie to you or misrepresent issues, so we’ll hit you with the harsh but true bottom line…
The only failsafe solution if you’re genuinely worried about your data being compromised is not to install any connected devices in your home.
In reality, though, it’s wildly unlikely you’ll be involved in any kind of meaningful breach and you need to ask yourself whether you’re prepared to go without the conveniences of a smart home because of some perceived threat to your privacy.
Only you know the right solution for you.