Convenience Vs. Privacy, hackers may have access to new devices

Posted at 3:53 PM, Apr 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-27 23:18:40-04

New technology makes daily life easier, but experts say it could also make it easier for hackers to spy on people.

In fact, a British newspaper listed all the home devices that could be used to track you and your family.

“It's hooked up to 15 satellites right now.” Exploring new Technology is Joshua DeBoer’s passion.

Gadgets play a big role in his busy household.  "Convenience. Just how smart everything has become, makes our lives easier which is great."

His wife Kristi depends on small devices to post her blog for moms. "Sometimes it’s a combination of social media which I would use my phone for... when I actually write the posts - I prefer to write it on my desktop."

From the PC she writes and skypes on to the baby monitor she uses to watch over her boys. "Or if they're arguing, I can listen.”

Their internet enabled devices offer tremendous convenience and help them feel more secure knowing cameras help them watch over their home. "It's pretty awesome. Anywhere in the world as long as WiFi is working - internet is working - we don't have to be home - which is pretty cool."

The smart TV may be doing more than keeping the family entertained. Interactive devices are tracking what you like, what you want, what you’re more likely to buy and even what you say.

"These companies have a huge appetite for that type of information because they want to profile their consumers and be more effective in their marketing,” said Dr. John Hale, a computer science professor at the University of Tulsa.

Dr. Hale’s students set up a system to sniff out what the Amazon Echo is tracking in your home.

"Even though we didn't ask it anything, there was a lot of information being sent to Amazon,” said Dr. Hale.

This type of popular device does more than order things. It also listens, and not just when consumers say the trigger word, Alexa.

Federal regulators are stopping some of the intrusion and even recently fined Vizio $2.1 million for tracking consumer habits without telling anyone.

Companies are now required to notify customers that what they watch, search for and buy will be tracked.

If the device has a camera and a microphone, someone else could watch and listen.

"It's not only companies that want to know about you it's potentially hackers and bad guys that want to know maybe when you're at home, or when you're not at home,” said Dr. Hale.

So what can be done? Experts recommend that consumers read the privacy notice in order to know what the device is tracking. Check for a default password. If the password isn’t changed, it’s easy for someone to essentially take control of the device.

The DeBoers are already taking action so they can safeguard their family while enjoying the convenience of technology.

Dr. Hale says forewarned is forearmed, so consumers should be aware of what they’re buying and putting in their homes.

Consumers should also check for apps that go along with the devices. The Alexa app lets parents track how the device is being used at any time for extra reassurance.

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