“Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You’re being hacked.”
These were the frightening and urgent words a Portland, Oregon family received over the phone two weeks ago, after what the Toronto Star calls an “unlikely string of events” caused their Amazon Echo to record their private conversations and send them to an acquaintance in Seattle, all without consent.
The receiver of these recordings was an employee of the husband, and was also the person to alert them of the situation. This person was listed in the device’s contacts.
“My husband and I would joke and say, ‘I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,” said family-member, Danielle, to Washington news station, KIRO 7. Danielle and her husband were reasonably in disbelief when they found out about the incident. “At first, my husband was, like, ‘No, you didn’t!’ And the [recipient of the message] said, ‘You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘Oh, gosh, you really did hear us.”
Lots of people are nervous about AI and especially anything with recording capability. Danielle and her family are now among that group. She described her feeling of violation to KIRO 7, saying “I’m never plugging that device in again. I can’t trust it.”
So how did this happen?
Amazon said in a statement to The Post last on May 24th that the Echo woke up upon hearing a word that sounded like Alexa. “The subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request. At which point, Alexa said out loud ‘To whom?’ At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list.”
So there was no hack, but it certainly felt that way to the family. Amazon says it is “evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”
Source: thestar.com – Amazon Echo recorded, sent Oregon family’s conversation without consent
Published: May 24, 2018