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Your wish is their command. Voice assistants — like Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, or others — can do cool things like tell you the weather, order your favorite pizza, or turn your lights off before bed. And, depending on which permissions you give, voice assistants may also do things like read your emails and access your calendar and contacts. 

These voice assistants might be stand-alone smart speakers or an app on your computer, tablet, or phone. And, to be ready to respond to your commands, they can listen all the time, ready to be activated by a “wake word” (like “Alexa” or “OK, Google”). But they might mishear you — or even turn on and start listening when you least expect it. 

Voice assistants usually send recordings to the manufacturer, so you’ll want to take steps to make sure they remain private and secure. Here are some privacy questions to consider, along with some different ways to secure your voice assistant: 

Know when it’s listening

Each time you interact with it, your voice assistant records what you say. It might also do that when it thinks it’s heard the wake word. If you want to be sure that sensitive information isn’t picked up by your smart speaker, look for settings to mute your device so it’s no longer listening. You might also be able to activate alerts that tell you when your voice assistant is actively listening. Check your voice assistant’s settings options or the manufacturer’s website to find out how to do that.

Check the privacy policy

Some voice assistant manufacturers have had employees listen to audio recordings in certain circumstances – say, to make their products work better. Some have stopped doing that since the media reported on it. the privacy policy for your voice assistant to understand how your audio recordings are handled and who can listen to them. 

Check your settings

Review your default settings. Periodically, look at your history, or even delete old recordings. You can usually do this by going to the voice assistant app or logging into your account on the manufacturer’s website. You also may be able to set it to auto-delete your recordings. 

Lock down your login

Create a strong password for the app or online account that controls your voice assistant. Make sure it has a least twelve characters, a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid common words, phrases, or information in your passwords. And don’t reuse existing passwords from other accounts. If one of those accounts gets hacked, a hacker could try that same password to get into your voice assistant. For more tips, check out this Password Checklist.

Know what’s connected to your voice assistant

It might be convenient to enable shopping, or to link your email account so your voice assistant can read your emails out loud. But do you want everyone who uses your voice assistant to be able to shop, or get your emails? If not:

  • Add a PIN to control whether others (like your kids or visitors) can use voice commands to buy things.
  • Check to see if you can add a passcode for access to your email.

Check your settings options or the manufacturer’s website to find out how to make these changes on your voice assistant. 

Use multi-factor authentication, when available

This makes it harder to hack into your account, even if a hacker gets your password. To use multi-factor authentication, you need both your password and an additional piece of information. The second piece could be a code sent to your phone, or a random number generated by an app or token. Check the security settings on your account to find out how to add this layer of protection.

Secure your router

Think of your router as home base for all your devices. The more secure your router, the more secure your connected devices will be. Find out the steps to take at Securing Your Wireless Network

Looking for more tips? Check out this advice on securing your IoT devices.