Safeguard your personal data when using smart home assistants

Woman using smart home assistant to help her cook

Smart home assistants have soared in popularity across UK homes. A digital report from EY showed that 22% of UK homes now own a digital home assistant, double the 11% figure reported in the same report for 2017.

Digital home assistants can seem like a fun, quick way to get things done on your other smart devices. Speaking to a home assistant that’s switched on can let you turn on your television or order something online without having to manage related devices individually – and these are just a couple of examples.

As with all systems that are online, though, home assistants come with security risks, both personal and financial. What should homeowners be aware of when it comes to using smart home assistants?

Can smart home assistants be hacked?

An important thing to remember is that most smart home devices are always on – there are cases where private conversations are reportedly recorded. If you’re always being monitored, can you accidentally reveal too much? And who has access to any data that might be stored?

If someone manages to hack your device or a server that holds your data, they could gain access to information that it holds, ranging from your personal data to login details for internet shopping. Hackers could even potentially find out when you’re not at home, if you’ve synced up your calendar to the device.

How to stay safe using a smart home assistant

As home assistants are relatively new on the market – compared to, say, smartphones – some of the risks are theoretical at this stage. But it pays to be vigilant. Some ways to help keep your digital home assistant secure include the following:

  • Only sync necessary accounts and devices to your home assistant.
  • Use voice recognition if possible, so that the device answers only to your voice.
  • Make sure that you’ve got strong and secure passwords, and update these regularly.
  • Don’t store sensitive data, like passwords or financial information, on the device.
  • Link the device to your own Wi-Fi network – don’t use public Wi-Fi.
  • If your device makes recordings, review these and erase them if they’re not needed.
  • Set a password for purchases.
  • Turn off the device when you’re not using it, for example, when you’re going on holiday.

You can enjoy the convenience of using a digital home assistant while also being aware of the risks and taking steps to safeguard your information.

You may also want to know if your personal data is being shared online without your knowledge. Your Equifax Credit Report & Score (which is free for the first 30 days then £7.95 monthly) includes WebDetect, which monitors websites frequented by fraudsters when trading stolen information. It also lets you add up to six email addresses, six telephone numbers, 12 credit/debit cards, six bank accounts, your driving licence and National Insurance numbers, and will alert you if your information is found to be at risk

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