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Ai home assistants can be easy targets for hackers. Alexa is a home

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

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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

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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.

For example:

❖ 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

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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.

References List

ACKROYD, B. (2018). Cyberbullying Statistics 2018: All the Facts and Numbers – [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

ANONYMOUS (2017). AI home assistants. [online image] Available from: [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

AUKTA, S. (2017). Antivirus vs Firewall: Differences and Comparison Guide. [online] MalwareFox. Available at: [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

CENSUS.GOV. (2019). Current Population. [online] Available at: [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:

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] Available at:

wireless-speakers/ [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

KAPERSKY (2016). Figure 2 – Ransomware statistics 2016. [online image] Available from: [Accessed 2 Jan.2019].

ROUSE, M. (2017). What is virtual assistant (AI assistant)? – Definition from [online] SearchCRM. Available at: [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

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