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What is Amazon Alexa?

Cue – Wikipedia definition!  Amazon Alexa, also known simply as Alexa, is a virtual assistant AI technology developed by Amazon, first used in the Amazon Echo smart speakers developed by Amazon Lab126. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news.  Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. Users are able to extend the Alexa capabilities by installing “skills” (additional functionality developed by third-party vendors, in other settings more commonly called apps such as weather programs and audio features).

Sounds great doesn’t it – but what considerations should you make regarding your Security and Privacy?  Here’s a summary of a few simple things you can do:

Secure your home network!

A secure home network is one of the keys to securing your Alexa devices and other smart devices as well. This means having a strong WiFi network password, avoiding using default passwords, and keep your router software (or firmware) up to date.

Secure your Amazon account!

Don’t forget that your Alexa device is secured and protected by your Amazon password. If someone has your Amazon password, they have access to your Alexa recordings, your smart devices like security systems and cameras, the ability to make purchases, and much more! Ensure you have a strong unique password and ALWAYS ensure you have MFA enabled.

Set your Alexa Privacy Settings!

  • RECORDINGS –To keep a handle on your recordings, set your recordings to be deleted after 3 months at a minimum.  The security conscious may want to delete at the end of each day, week or month – however this will have to be done manually as the earliest auto setting is 3 months.

Manage your voice recordings > Automatically delete recordings > 3 MONTHS

  • HELP IMPROVE ALEXA – Unless you would like some of your recordings to be listened to by Amazon to help improve the service, you may want to turn this feature off.

Manage your voice recordings > Use Voice Recordings to Improve Amazon Services > OFF

  • ALLOW MESSAGES TO IMPROVE TRANSCRIPTIONS – Same as above but regarding ‘messages’ you may want to turn this feature off also.

Manage your voice recordings > Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions > OFF

Set a PIN for Voice Purchases!

If you plan to have voice purchases “enabled” 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 purchases.  (Especially useful if you have children!)

Settings > Alexa Account > Voice Purchasing > ON

Turn off your microphone when you’re not using the device!

You can minimize the risk of anyone (whether you think it is a hacker, neighbour or Amazon!) by turning off your microphone when 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.  Or alternatively unplug it! ?

So to summarise, Alexa and other Smart devices are very cool….and convenient, but some consideration should be given to your security and privacy!