Companies are asking their employees to turn off their smart speakers while working from home

The global coronavirus outbreak has forced thousands of public and private organizations to move away from workplaces, relying on home office. This practice has its obvious consequences, although experts from a cyber security audit enterprise have pointed out other possible results not previously foreseeable.

Companies around the world have asked their employees working from home to deactivate their smart speakers, at least until the contingency ends, as they fear that Alexa or Google Home may hear sensitive information.

It is worth mentioning that it has been shown on multiple occasions that these devices are able to listen to users even when they are not asked to take an action explicitly. Companies perform these tracking and information gathering tasks with the excuse of improving voice assistants’ machine learning, a cyber security audit specialist assure.

This data collection can be harmful to professionals who routinely operate confidential information, such as distance teachers, doctors, lawyers, law enforcement officials, and executives from private companies.

Recently, a law firm asked all its members to turn off any non-priority smart device: “This may be a somewhat paranoid measure, but we must consider all possible risks,” commented a representative of a cyber security audit company.

Cybersecurity specialists claim that it is not even necessary for the user to speak aloud to trigger this scenario, as a voice assistant can be invoked even by the noise generated by the TV or radio. An experiment conducted by Northeastern University specialists concluded that a smart speaker employed in a normal home could be accidentally activated up to 20 times a day.

Figures reported by the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) say that around 60 million Americans have at least one smart speaker in their homes. In addition, the use of these devices has become incredibly common, increasing the scope of this data collection activity to unusual levels. Users should be aware that employees of these companies actively listen to some samples of their interactions with these devices, so it’s worth considering whether it’s really worth using this equipment routinely.