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Who is listening to your conversations through your smart devices?

While we continue to work and learn from home, it’s important to remember that your “private” conversations may not be so private. We’ve been warned about hackers taking control of cameras on your computer screen, that is still a concern, but hackers are also listening to you via your smart devices. The device itself might not be recording your conversation, but a hacker could be.

As people continue to work from remote locations during the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a significant spike in cybercrime. Hackers know you are home, so they are listening. They could be listening through your smartphones, computers, laptops, tablets, smart TVs, Amazon Alexa, and Echo devices. Or even Google Home, Facebook, thermostats, lights, any third-party apps using the microphone feature, AirPods and AirBuds, and most newer cars. The list goes on and on.

Think about what you are doing in the coming weeks? Are you having a sensitive conversation about grades with a student? Are you completing an evaluation with a staff member? Are you discussing work-related issues with a coworker? Are you discussing proprietary research data? Are you talking about your taxes? What about financial aid forms? Are you discussing medical issues? You may think you are safe discussing this information in your home, but keep in mind someone else may be listening.

Security tips

  • Go to your smart device manufacturer’s website and look for directions on how to turn off the microphone on your device. If you are having trouble finding the information, try a Google search, and include the product’s name with key search words like microphonesecurity, and disable voice command.
  • Turn the smart device off, and if it is electrically powered, unplug it.
  • Create a device-free room in your home and have your private conversations only in that room. Leave your smartphone outside of the room.

Smartphones

You can turn off third-party apps like Facebook in Settings on your smartphone.

  • If you are an iPhone user, go to Settings >> Facebook (or any other app) >> slide the toggle next to the Microphone to the left, so it turns from green to white.
  • For Android users go to Settings >> Applications >> Application Manager >> look for Facebook (or any other app) >> Permissions >> turn off the mic.

Currently, we all are working through stressful situations. You may want to keep using the microphones on your smart devices. Just be careful what you say around that device. Don’t let a hacker make a difficult time even worse by stealing sensitive or personal information.