Australia Markets closed

Hey Siri, are you listening to my conversations?

A Google Home smart speaker photographed on a kitchen counter, taken on January 9, 2019. (Photo by Olly Curtis/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Nearly a third of all Australians with devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa believe their devices might be listening to their conversations, new information from cybersecurity firm McAfee has revealed.

Concerningly, around the same percentage of Australians have done nothing to address the security risks posed by smart home devices.

It’s a major indicator of Australians’ poor understanding around WiFi router security, McAfee’s chief technology officer for the Australia-Pacifica, Ian Yip observed this week.

“From connected fridges to WiFi enabled doorbells, Internet of Things (IoT) devices are making their way into homes at an increasing rate, with Gartner predicting as many as 20 billion such devices will exist by 2020. Unfortunately, security is not always prioritised by IoT manufacturers, and it’s up to consumers to ensure their connected home is protected,” he warned.

“By taking a casual approach to securing our home WiFi networks, Aussies are effectively giving cybercriminals a key to the castle by allowing them easier access to a large number of data-rich devices through one point of entry, their router.”

What’s the problem?
  • 27 per cent of Australians have never changed the default passwords on their WiFi router
  • 18 per cent wait more than a month to update their device’s software
  • 41 per cent of Australians don’t understand that protecting their WiFi is different to protecting the smart home devices connected to it
  • 32 per cent have taken no steps towards protecting these connective devices
  • And 30 per cent say they don’t know who to turn to if they’re hacked.

But the good news is that addressing the concerns is simple: just use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication, keep your devices’ software up-to-date and check the device’s security track record.

Okay, so is Siri listening to my conversation?

Yes and no.

Smart home devices generally require a key to begin recording like, “Okay Google,” or “Hey Siri”. Those interactions are stored on the smart home device. And while the smart home device is always listening to you in case you say the key words, those recordings are overwritten once it fails to detect the key words.

Make your money work with Yahoo Finance’s daily newsletter. Sign up here and stay on top of the latest money, property and tech news.

Now read: Why cows’ gallstones are worth their weight in gold

Now read: ‘Fees will need to rise’ to cover super changes

Now read: Taxpayers to foot $1 billion bill to cover retiring politicians’ entitlements