Technology

Alexa vulnerability is a reminder to delete your voice history

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An Amazon vulnerability with its subdomain kicked off a sequence of points that might’ve let a hacker view your voice chat historical past, researchers stated.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If you have not been frequently deleting your voice historical past with Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, you can have an excellent motive to begin: a lately mounted vulnerability that might’ve uncovered all of your conversations with the good speaker. 

On Thursday, researchers from cybersecurity agency Check Point released a report detailing safety points they found with Amazon’s Alexa, which might’ve allowed a possible hacker to get an individual’s dialog logs with the good speaker, in addition to set up abilities on the machine with out the particular person figuring out. 

“The safety of our gadgets is a high precedence, and we respect the work of impartial researchers like Test Level who carry potential points to us. We mounted this difficulty quickly after it was delivered to our consideration, and we proceed to additional strengthen our methods,” an Amazon spokesperson stated in a press release.

The corporate stated it was contacted by the researchers in June and that it hadn’t seen any instances of the vulnerability getting used. However the safety issues function a robust reminder to reduce the quantity of historical past logged together with your good audio system. 

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Connected devices at home present a new opening for hackers, and smart voice assistants are no different. Security researchers have frequently demonstrated flaws with Alexa, like a stranger yelling to unlock your door or a laser pointer being able to activate your device from 300 feet away.  

Many of these concerns are mitigated by the fact that an attacker would need to be near your home or within your speakers’ range, but the security flaws found by Check Point would’ve needed just a single click, researchers said. 

Amazon had a vulnerability with its subdomains — URLs like track.amazon.com, for example. Though you might be skeptical enough to avoid clicking on suspicious links, a URL with Amazon’s domain in it could be enough to make you believe you’re safe. 

The security researchers discovered that they were able to inject code into the subdomain that would allow them to extract a security token tied to your Alexa account. Using that token, a potential attacker could pose as you to install skills, get a list of the skills you’re already using, and view your voice chat history with Alexa. 

Depending on how sensitive your conversations with Alexa are, that could mean access to your health information, your finances, or just the silly day-to-day stuff you might ask the voice assistant. 

“Smart speakers and virtual assistants are so commonplace that it’s easy to overlook just how much personal data they hold, and their role in controlling other smart devices in our homes,” Oded Vanunu, Check Point’s head of products vulnerabilities research, said in a statement. “But hackers see them as entry points into peoples’ lives, giving them the opportunity to access data, eavesdrop on conversations or conduct other malicious actions without the owner being aware. We conducted this research to highlight how securing these devices is critical to maintaining users’ privacy.” 

Check Point said attackers could’ve started eavesdropping on conversations by installing a skill, but Amazon scans skills for any malicious activities, and blocks them from its marketplace. The voice history log is a bigger concern, and the vulnerability is a reminder that you should be regularly deleting your conversations with Alexa. 

Like other voice assistant providers, Amazon keeps records of your voice history to improve its own artificial intelligence, and unless you opt out, human reviewers will listen to those conversations, too. 

You can have your voice history set to delete automatically past three months or 18 months, but if you want it deleted every day or every week, you’ll need to do it manually

With vulnerabilities like this, that’s a good practice, because of the potential for hackers to access those sensitive records. Ask yourself: Do the pros of having a history of your conversations with Amazon outweigh the cons?

Though deleting your voice history could keep you safe from potential hackers, you might still have some privacy concerns regarding Amazon’s policies. 

In a letter to senators from July 2019, Amazon said it keeps some transcripts of voice recordings indefinitely, even when the audio itself is deleted.





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Author

Alfred Ng