Security concerns are being raised surrounding the Amazon’s Echo devices and its Alexa voice-controlled AI – following incidents of accidental purchases.
A US TV presenter, for CW6 San Diego, managed to activate Amazon Echo devices across the city of San Diego – when he was reacting to a report about a girl who had ordered a doll’s house and cookies through her family’s Echo Dot.
The presenter, Jim Patton, said: “I love the little girl saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse’.”
This reportedly prompted some devices all around the city to activate and attempt ordering doll’s houses.
The original report that Patton was reacting to was about six-year-old Brooke Neitzel – who had been talking to her family’s Echo Dot while playing. Brooke asked Alexa to get her a doll’s house and cookies and, because her family had not activated any buying controls, the device placed an order for both. The next day, the items arrived at their family home, much to her mother’s surprise.
“These devices don’t recognise your specific voice and so then we have the situations where you have a guest staying or you have a child who is talking and accidentally order something because the device isn’t aware that it’s a child versus a parent,” Stephen Cobb, senior security researcher for ESET North America, told CW6.
Cobb continued: “All of these devices which record the internet of things will have some sort of website control, some sort of setting, sometimes the setting is on the device that is communicating. So you need to go into these settings and look at what they are, and what you can change.”