13 Ways Your Smart Home Could Be Spying on You (And How To Fight Back)

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Bilal Javed

Are you ever left with the unsettling feeling that your own home might be watching you? The very devices that are meant to make our lives easier in the connected day may be surreptitiously invading our privacy. 

A staggering 76 percent of Americans believe that their smart home devices are spying on them, a concern that is not just paranoia but a reality supported by numerous reports. (source)

These intelligent devices, from your smart TV to your voice-activated assistant, are equipped with capabilities that, if left unchecked, can turn them into surveillance tools. 

Nevertheless, there are practical solutions to safeguard your haven and recover your privacy. 

In this article, “13 Ways Your Smart Home Could Be Spying on You (And How to Fight Back),” we will guide you through identifying these stealthy spies. Additionally, we will arm you with robust strategies to counter their prying eyes.

1. Smart TVs and Automatic Content Recognition (ACR)

Smart TVs often come with ACR technology that monitors what you watch to tailor advertisements. It sounds convenient, but it also means your viewing habits are being tracked. 

To counter this, dive into your TV settings and turn off ACR under options like “viewing information” or “viewing data.” This stops the data collection cold.

2. Smart Speakers Listening In

Devices such as Alexa and Google Assistant are designed to listen to your commands, which means they’re always listening. While helpful, they potentially gather more than just your requests. 

Turn off voice control when not in use or activate privacy settings to restrict listening as a countermeasure. You can also wipe your data periodically to keep your information secure.

3. Smart Thermostats With Hidden Cameras and Microphones

Some thermostats like the ecobee4 aren’t just controlling the temperature; they can also listen and sometimes even watch. Having a device that records audio or video in your home raises serious privacy concerns. 

Turn off the microphones and cameras on these devices to protect your privacy and make sure they’re not recording when you don’t want them to.

4. Vulnerabilities in Smart Lightbulbs

Smart lightbulbs like Philips Hue utilize a wireless protocol that, if not secured, could be a gateway for hackers. This risk isn’t just theoretical; it’s a potential backdoor into your network. 

The solution is straightforward: keep your lightbulbs’ firmware up to date to patch any vulnerabilities and protect your network.

5. Unsecured Wi-Fi Network

An unsecured Wi-Fi network is like an open door for cybercriminals. Many routers come with weak default settings that are easy to exploit. 

To lock down your network, change the default SSID and password. Also, enables the highest level of security available, typically WPA3, to keep unwanted guests out.

6. The Perils of Outdated Firmware

Outdated firmware in routers and IoT devices can lead to serious security risks. Hackers exploit these weaknesses to access your network. 

Keeping your devices safe involves setting them to automatically update or regularly checking for firmware improvements yourself. This keeps your network defenses strong.

7. The Risk of Weak Passwords

It’s common for smart devices to come equipped with default passwords that are all too easy to guess. This makes them prime targets for hacking. 

As soon as you set up a new device, always change the default password to something strong and distinct to protect your gadgets.

8. Lack of Two-Factor Authentication

Without two-factor authentication, your smart devices rely solely on passwords for security, which isn’t enough in today’s tech-savvy world. 

By enabling two-factor authentication, you add an extra layer of protection, making it harder for intruders to gain unauthorized access to your devices.

9. Shared Networks with Sensitive Data

Connecting your smart home devices to the same network as your devices exposes you to risks. If hackers infiltrate one device, they could access them all. 

Establish a guest network just for your IoT devices to divide up the hazards. By doing this, you protect your primary devices from possible hacks.

10. Unmonitored Network Activity

When your network activity goes unchecked, it’s hard to spot unusual behavior that could indicate a security breach. 

For better oversight, use tools like Firewalla or Fingbox. These services monitor your network traffic and alert you to suspicious activity, helping you to respond quickly.

11. Overly Broad Privacy Policies

Many smart device manufacturers have privacy policies that are vague about how they use your data. This ambiguity can be a sign that your data is being used in ways you wouldn’t expect. 

To combat this, read and understand the privacy policies of your devices. Demand clearer policies and opt out of data sharing when possible.

12. Companies Prioritizing Profits Over Privacy

Some companies may prioritize collecting your data over protecting it, using it to push more products or services. This practice can compromise your privacy. 

Support businesses that prioritize user privacy and are open about their data usage methods to make sure your data is protected.

13. Lack of Closed-Loop Smart Homes

Originally, smart homes were meant to keep data localized, not shared widely with advertisers or stored on the cloud. However, this has shifted towards models that profit from user data. 

Promote technologies that prioritize local data processing and storage without depending on external servers to return to a more private configuration.