While having an Alexa device is fun, and it makes life a lot easier when you can operate your smart gadgets without getting up off the couch, many people have privacy concerns about their Echo devices. Is Alexa always listening? Are Alexa smart displays always watching? Can someone hack my device? Is someone using my data for advertising or other purposes? These are only a few of the many questions that arise when it comes to Alexa privacy and security.
These are valid concerns, as Alexa devices are internet-connected gadgets with microphones that record what you say, and some even have cameras. To help ease your mind, you can take some precautions to help secure your Alexa device. We’ve included some tips on how to secure your Echo below.
Delete your Alexa voice recordings every day
On the same day Amazon unveiled the Echo Show 5, it also announced a new privacy feature that allows customers to delete all of their recordings from their Alexa device for a specific day.
If you simply say, “Alexa, delete what I said today,” your Alexa-enabled device will delete your daily voice recordings. If you perform this action at night before you go to bed, you can keep your Alexa recordings cleared out.
Delete your Alexa voice recordings history
Even if you go through and delete you recordings each night, you may still have an archive of past recordings (prior to when you started deleting them daily).
To delete your archive, go into the Alexa app and select Settings > Alexa Account > History, and then go through and delete all of your past recordings.
Turn off your microphone and camera when you’re not using the device
Some users worry about a random creep hacking into their Echo and listening in on them, or even worse, they worry someone may be watching them through an Echo device that has a camera. You can minimize this risk by turning off your microphone if you don’t plan on using your Echo. Simply press the microphone on/off button located on top of the device, and Alexa will stop listening.
You can turn off the camera on Alexa devices like theby either using your voice (say, “Alexa, turn camera off”), or you can go to Settings > Device Options > and then turn off the Enable Camera option.
Be mindful of where you place your Alexa devices
Avoid placing your Echo near a window or in a location that’s easily accessible from outside your home. In addition to reducing the risk of someone accessing your Echo from outside, this also reduces the risk of people outside of your home listening to your calls and other Alexa interactions.
Change your wake word
Change your wake word to a word you seldom (if ever) use in conversation. Also, make sure your wake word doesn’t sound too similar to other words you frequently use in conversation. This way, if you have a friend named “Alexis,” Alexa doesn’t start recording your conversations when you say your friend’s name.
To change your wake word you can simply say, “Alexa, change the wake word,” or you can go to the Alexa App and go to Devices > select your device > select Wake Word > select a new wake word from the list > then select OK.
Use a strong Amazon Password
Sometimes, people forget that their Alexa devices are secured and protected by their Amazon password. If someone has your Amazon password, they have access to your Alexa recordings, your smart devices like security systems and cameras, your daily routine, the ability to make purchases, and much more.
Digital Trend’s own Trevor Mogg recently reported on a study by the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) that looked at public databases of breached accounts and found that 23.2 million accounts globally used the password “123456.” If you’re using a weak password, or if you’re using the same password for multiple accounts, you may want to think about increasing your password security.
Increase your Network Security
A secure home network is key to securing your Alexa devices and smart home devices as well. This means, having a strong network password, avoiding using default passwords, avoiding giving your password to friends and neighbors (use a “guest” network instead), and using two-factor authentication when possible. You can read more about how to secure your Wi-Fi network here.
Set up a pin for voice purchases
One concern a lot of people had with Alexa devices was that kids would accidentally purchase thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, and that we’d all go broke and have piles of Amazon boxes in our living rooms.
While you must have voice purchases ‘enabled’ and you must have a one-click payment method set up to make those voice purchases, it’s still a good idea to take extra precaution and add a purchase code. This requires the purchaser to say a four-digit confirmation code before making any voice purchase. To set up the code go to the Alexa app, and go to Settings > Alexa Account > Voice Purchases. When you enable voice purchases, it will give you the option to set up your purchase code.
Read Privacy Policies and Adjust your privacy settings
In the Alexa app under Settings > Alexa Account > Alexa Privacy, you can adjust your privacy settings. For instance, you can review your smart alert history, manage which info is sent to Amazon about your smart home devices, and manage your skills permissions (which is kind of like managing app permissions on your phone). Specific Alexa devices have additional privacy settings. For instance, thelets you choose whether or not you want your photos to be submitted for style suggestions.
Don’t create and share skills that contain your personal information
Alexa Blueprints has given Alexa device users the ability to create, share, and publish their own customized skills. Some of these skills, like personal quizzes and babysitter skills, can contain personal information about the user and their family if the user is not careful.
Before you create a skill (and especially before you share a skill), review it and think about if you’re including too much personal info. Avoid statements in babysitter skills like, “Susie just turned one on May 5th, so she’s not sleeping through the night yet,” and instead simply say, “The baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet.” In quizzes, avoid including questions like, “When is aunt Jen’s birthday?” Or “What is Uncle Bill’s middle name?” Keep the questions superfluous and fun, without including the wrong kind of personal information.