Are You Being Spied On?

The seeds for much of the technology continuing to advance to the mass production stage were sown in the 1980s.

When the pop artists Rockwell and Michael Jackson we’re dropping the classic anthem for the paranoid, 1984’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” I’d guess that neither man could have imagined a world where the CIA is alleged to have created a malware strain named Weeping Angel during a joint workshop with the agency’s British counterparts, MI5, in 2014.

If a data dump in 2017 from Wikileaks is legitimate, Weeping Angel had the ability to capture audio and recover the Wi-Fi keys Samsung Smart TVs use to later hack the target’s Wi-Fi network — and access any usernames or passwords stored on the TV browser.

In addition to potential security and privacy issues presented by “Smart TV’s” several different popular artificial intelligence platforms also have been known to have their own vulnerabilities. Amazon’s Echo (which is connected to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa), Cortana, which is a virtual assistant created by Microsoft for Windows PC and Mobile devices and Google Assistant also pose potential problems for Americans looking to keep their most intimate conversations and ideas within the confines of their domicile.

Although, these platforms certainly make life easier for a population constantly looking for new means of convenience and efficiency, they open a pandoras box of potential security pitfalls.

It’s already bad enough that on a daily basis computer users connected to the Internet must face an endless barrage of privacy issues and malware threats in the form of sophisticated ransomware encrypting files without any warning.

Now, we must face potential privacy invasions from other “smart” devices.

According to a report that was published this spring, almost one in five U.S. adults today have access to a smart speaker in their home. That statistic translates to roughly 20 percent or 47.3 million American adults adopting voice-powered devices in the last two years.

It’s one thing to knowingly use a voice activated assistant with the reasonable expectation that some or all of the audio could be recorded and stored somewhere in the cybersphere, but what happens when you unknowingly trigger an unwanted record of casual conversation?

It’s already known that Google Assistant records and stores all your conversations and text transcripts in its servers to help its improve its service.

What is lesser known, is although Google says it’s “assistant” only turns on records upon hearing the phrase, “OK Google.”

An investigation by the UK’s The Sun has found that in some cases, just uttering “OK” in casual conversation activated the recording function and recorded around 20 seconds of audio.

If Google’s servers were to be infiltrated, that information could be used in a multitude of ways. Earlier this month, a Google software engineer named David Tomaschik exposed potential vulnerabilities when he was able to hack into the RFID-secured doors of Google’s Sunnyvale, California, campus.

Amazon’s Alexa and Echo products have also shown the ability to be compromised as well. At last months DefCon Security Conference, Chinese researchers Wu Huiyu and Qian Wenxiang presented a technique they developed that chained together a series of bugs in Amazon’s Echo to control the devices and stream-recorded audio from its microphone to a remote attacker.

With good intentions, the researchers immediately alerted Amazon to their findings, but the success of their experiment should be a cause for concern for potential buyers of the product.

In June, Microsoft had to issue a Windows 10 security update to prevent hackers from potentially breaking into PCs using Cortana.

Every version of Windows 10 in use is equipped with the popular digital assistant, and researchers from McAfee, a popular maker of Anti-virus software, discovered that it’s possible to manipulate Cortana to execute malicious software while the screen was locked.

Hacker’s would need physical access to the computer and then could use the digital assistant to index files via the USB drive and execute them.

Ultimately, users of smart speakers, like computer users in general, must be diligent in ensuring that they are regularly updating their software and looking for the latest security patches.

Not every consumer always remembers to check, but with literally hundreds of millions of PCs, tablets, smart phones and stand alone “smart assistant” devices lurking around every corner, the possibility of being recorded — saying the wrong thing — by either your device or someone else’s, has never been higher.

Julio Rivera is a small business consultant, political activist, writer and Editorial Director for Reactionary Times. He has been a regular contributor to Newsmax TV and columnist for Newsmax.com since 2016. His writing, which is concentrated on politics, cybersecurity and sports, has also been published by websites including The Hill, The Washington Times, LifeZette, The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, The Toronto Sun and PJ Media and many others. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

Originally Published in Newsmax as: New Tech Outpaces Safeguards | Newsmax.com

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