Ask a lot of people are they concerned that smart devices are transmitting data back to the manufacturer and many will shrug their shoulders and mutter, ‘Who cares?’

This is probably because they don’t know the type of data that is being culled. For instance does a smart toothbrush need to know your location or even capture audio data?

Does a smart toy need to collect a child’s interactions and send it to a server (banned in Germany because of privacy intrusions) does a smart TV need to send data on your viewing habits to hundreds of other companies?

Lack of clarity

The fact is that many companies are not clear with users about how they are collecting data, what data they are collecting, how they are using it or whether they are selling it onto third parties.

For sure this information is available but it’s often buried in impenetrable terms and conditions and who reads these lengthy, small print tracts?

Here are a few steps you can take to turn the tide and also protect your smart devices:
  • Smart devices come with an app or web interface so you can set them to operate according to your preferences. Some have privacy controls so you can explore the app/web interface so see exactly what these controls are and whether you can adjust the settings to control the data that is collected and shared. 
  • When you register a smart device or sign up for a service, set up a separate email account that you use specifically for this purpose. You can use different names and so on, so if something goes wrong your genuine data won’t be compromised. 
  • Google and Apple are increasingly taking steps to protect privacy and both their operating systems, Android and iOS, now give you greater control over what data smartphone apps can access. Check the settings menus in your device for these features.

Other important security steps

  • Set strong passwords - default passwords set by manufacturers are often generic and used on multiple devices, making it easy for hackers to crack them. To improve security you should set a strong yet but memorable password or passphrase. You should also do this on your router.
  • Keep your software up to date – smart devices should have regular software updates that add features, adjust performance and improve security. Some smart devices will update automatically, but it's worth checking the device or app periodically.  
  • Voice-controlled smart devices, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, are vulnerable to the simplest hack - someone else talking to them. You can turn off voice purchasing from the Echo's Alexa app or you can set up a four-digit passcode to give an extra layer of security. If you want absolute privacy pull the plug until you want to use your smart speaker.  
Download the free Dojo Intelligent IoT Vulnerability Scanner from BullGuard. It scans all of the IoT devices connected to your home Wi-Fi network and detects which ones are at the greatest risk of cybersecurity flaws. Available on iOS and Android it predicts the likelihood of a significant breach in a Wi-Fi network allowing a user to take remedial steps.