AI home assistants can be easy targets for hackers. Alexa is a home
assistant which listens to users 24 hours a day, recording and storing
their voices on the ‘cloud’. It could be easily hacked since it features
low level security. The device cannot function offline meaning it is more
susceptible to attacks. An intercepted Alexa device could mean that
hackers can turn on the microphone whenever they wish to. (Jarosciak”,
2017). This leads to a huge invasion of privacy.
Figure 1 shows that cyber-bullying is present in almost the entire world.
The United States had a high percentage during 2018. The US is the third
most populated country in the world with a population of 331 million.
(Census.Gov, 2019). Figure 1 shows that participants from every state in
the US suffered from cyber-bullying in that year. This demonstrates the
absence of effective regulations to prevent cyber-bullying, and it is
worrying as the US is one of the main marketplaces for Alexa.
Alexa, could also be attractive to hackers for ransomware attacks. An
example of a scenario would include the hacker extracting money from
the user in return for erasing the audio recordings. (Jarosciak, 2017).
However, Figure 2 shows that one in five complying victims still never got
their data back. There is no guarantee that the hacker will delete the
user’s audio recordings.
A solution to tackle the issue would need to be derived from the root
cause of the problem. The solution would be to introduce a firewall or an
antivirus software to bring security to the device, and reassurance to its
❖ A firewall is a software which observes the traffic entering and
leaving the network. (Aukta, 2017).
❖ An antivirus is responsible for searching through the device for
threatening files or software and exterminate them. (Aukta”,
❖ For Amazon to have a firewall or an antivirus software
implemented into all their future AI home assistants.
❖ Current customers who have already purchased Alexa, should
have an update on their device which adds the additional
The private audio copies could be stolen and misused by hackers as a
form of cyber-bullying against people involved in the recordings.
Hackers could cut and edit these to manipulate the users’
Figure 1 – 2018
Figure 2 – 2016
An AI home assistant is a device with the abilities to understand voice
commands from users and, using this feature, help with everyday tasks.
❖ reading emails
❖ setting reminders
❖ and creating lists
The home assistant is able to answer questions and respond to
commands by using voice technology because it is backed by artificial
intelligence. It can record previous conversations with users to further
improve and personalise future interactions. (Rouse, 2017).
Cyber-bullying is a form of bullying that occurs online. Examples consist
of: sending harmful or threatening messages to people or leaking
private information with the intention to humiliate someone. (Ackroyd”,
Alexa’s Biggest Threat
The addition of a firewall or an antivirus would help to prevent data
breaches with Alexa devices. This will ensure that users will not
have to face situations like cyber-bullying and ransomware. It is a
key role for organisations which handle personal data to keep the
data that they hold secure. According to the General Data
Protection Regulation, organisations which face a data breach must
report it to the relevant authority within 72 hours otherwise they
can face huge penalties. (GDPR, 2016). If the data collected by
Alexa devices was breached, AI home assistants would be less
trusted, thus adding a firewall or an antivirus as a layer of security
would be valuable. Tackling this root problem would in turn help to
prevent the issue of cyber-bullying via hacked AI home assistants.
ACKROYD, B. (2018). Cyberbullying Statistics 2018: All the Facts and Numbers – TigerMobiles.com. [online] TigerMobiles.com. Available at: https://www.tigermobiles.com/faq/cyberbullying-statistics/ [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].
ANONYMOUS (2017). AI home assistants. [online image] Available from: http://i.gzn.jp/img/2017/03/05/alexa-siri-cortana-all-female/00.png [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].
AUKTA, S. (2017). Antivirus vs Firewall: Differences and Comparison Guide. [online] MalwareFox. Available at: https://www.malwarefox.com/antivirus-vs-firewall/ [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].
CENSUS.GOV. (2019). Current Population. [online] Available at: https://www.census.gov/popclock/print.php?component=counter [Accessed 5 Jan. 2019].
General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR) (SI 2016/679). Europe: EU Parliament.
IPSOS (2018). Figure 1 – Global views on cyber-bullying. [online image] Available from: https://public.tableau.com/views/GlobalViewsonCyberbulling2011-
2018/GlobalViewsonCyberbullying2011to2018?:embed=y&:embed_code_version=3&:loadOrderID=0&:display_count=yes [Accessed 2 Jan.2019].
JAROSCIAK, J. (2017). Social and Ethical Concerns of Smart Voice-Enabled Wireless Speakers – Jozef Jarosciak Blog. [online] Joe0.com. Available at: https://www.joe0.com/2017/03/29/social-and-ethical-concerns-of-smart-voice-enabled-
wireless-speakers/ [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].
KAPERSKY (2016). Figure 2 – Ransomware statistics 2016. [online image] Available from: https://securelist.com/kaspersky-security-bulletin-2016-story-of-the-year/76757/ [Accessed 2 Jan.2019].
ROUSE, M. (2017). What is virtual assistant (AI assistant)? – Definition from WhatIs.com. [online] SearchCRM. Available at: https://searchcrm.techtarget.com/definition/virtual-assistant [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].