Some Amazon Echo speakers can be hacked to spy on you


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Some of Amazon’s Echo speakers, designed to listen and record conversations if so commanded, can be hacked to record everything and transmit those recordings remotely.

First of all, you have to have actual access to the device to mess with its hardware. Then, you have to make sure it’s either a 2015 or 2016 model, as brand new Echo versions can’t be hacked similarly.

But if these conditions are met, then a hacker can quickly take the Echo’s base apart and load on it custom firmware that will instruct it to record everything spoken around it. That data can then be sent out to a remote server. That’s what Barnes did in his security tests. Hacking a home speaker may be the best way to spy on certain targets, even if this implies infiltrating their homes to actually mess with the hardware.

This is why I want nothing to do with smart machines. The dumber the machine, the better. I see no reason for my speakers, my washing machine, my car, or my stove, to be connected the internet. All such capability provides is a way to cause problems.

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8 comments

  • Chris R

    I find the “connected device” dialogue very fascinating. There are three camps: Mr. Zimmerman’s (completely against unnecessary connected devices), my camp (they serve a purpose but I am very skeptical and weary), and the “I don’t care about privacy” camp (the name speaks for itself.)

    I like being in the middle. I certainly see the idealogical benefits of an everything-connected society. But I, like Mr. Zimmerman, refuse to participate in it due to privacy and security concerns.

    What I am saying is, I don’t think it is correct to shun the technological movement in this direction. We should not close the doors on connected devices because of the possible benefits. On the other hand, I think there is much work to be done to make the devices of the future safe for everyone (if it is even possible to make them safe).

    On a related note – watching employers surgically insert microchips inside their employees makes me want to vomit.

  • Orion314

    I think smart TV’s are one of the dumbest idea’s, I had to do a bit of hunting for a dumb 4K tv, I have a smart blue ray player, in case I want to access Netflix or utube, but I can un power that with ease,. My guess is that buying a non-smart tv will soon become difficult , if not impossible.

  • Sandra Warren

    I concur exactly with your last paragraph, Bob. At best, when problems occur, it will likely create a cascade of non-functionality. At worst, others will control what you can and can’t do.

  • wayne

    I’m in the “useful applications in some situations, but you cannot really trust any of them,” camp.

    And some of this stuff definitely falls into the “Ideas so Great they have to be made Mandatory” realm, in that they are inherently intrusive by their very application.

    I have a (newer) digital electric-meter, installed by my utility.
    Now, they are offering to charge me time-of-day differential rates, but to participate, they want control of my A/C and will install yet another device to manipulate the coil & pump, and internal blower.
    Nefarious stuff aside, the trade off is just not there for me.

    My auto insurance (State Farm) is offering to give me a 5% discount, if I install a GPS device in my car. Again, the trade-off just isn’t there for me.

    And, something I find incredibly ironic where I live now, my trash guy charges extra for “recycling,” if I sort my trash for collection, they charge me more, a lot more. (needless to say, it all goes in the trash and I pay less.)
    In contrast, –different City and they gave us a monthly credit if we did sort/recycle. (which was sorta creepy-esque ‘cuz they kept track of who-did & who-didn’t every week.)

  • LocalFluff

    I’ve given up privacy. Anyone who cares can hack my fridge, I’m just not popular enough for that to be a practical problem. People like Musk worry about AI. Well, stupid computers is enough of a threat already with our dependence and their unpredictable malfunctions. We treat computing as our children. It will be a relief the day we can treat them as grown up friends.

  • BSJ

    I for one, can’t stand talking to computers.

    Looked cool on Star Trek. Sucks in the real world!

  • LocalFluff

    I’m old enough to find it strange to be talking TO the phone, not with someone THROUGH the phone. I’ve given it an insulting nick name it doesn’t understand, just to prove who’s the boss (to make sure, because I’m getting worried).

  • BSJ

    And I forcefully uncoupled the OnStar antenna in my car. And the microphone was ripped out and turned into a power port…

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