Over the last couple of years, most of the major tech companies have been making a push for consumers to purchase standalone digital assistant devices for use in the home.
Google, for example, has teamed up with Walmart to offer competitive services to Amazon’s Echo, while Amazon has responded by offering access to both Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana on the Echo itself.
Furthermore, Alexa, Cortana, and Siri are being made available as apps on other digital assistant devices. These moves can be seen as part of a new tech-war and—like most modern era tech-wars—this fight is about securing information.
Essentially, these digital assistants are becoming the central hub for the IoT in your home, and tech companies hope to utilize these hubs to create more detailed consumer profiles for all the individuals in your household.
Not only has voice recognition finally advanced to a point where these devices can understand you with little to no error, but Amazon recently announced that Alexa has the ability to correctly identify and store information on up to 10 different voices associated with your home.
While these tech companies haven’t expressly stated their intentions or goals for these devices, the general assumption is that better detailed consumer profiles will allow them to more accurately target consumers with ad content.
Is It Affordable?
The flagship home devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are priced affordably, starting at about $100 and extending to about $300 for more advanced models. Smaller units with scaled features, like the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Dot are priced even more affordably and typically start at around $50.
While smaller, cheaper units may come with limited features it isn’t exactly clear if you’ll actually be limited by functionality, at least for right now. These less expensive units typically include most of the features that are popular with personal assistant devices, including the ability to play music, ask general questions, shop, and even install apps like web readers.
More expensive units promise higher features like complete IoT integration, but whether or not the personal assistant that you’ve chosen will actually integrate with all of your home appliances, lighting, or other smart home products might be more complicated than that.
Does it Make Sense?
Despite the advances in all of the technologies that digital assistants rely on, the inconvenient truth is that assistant technology is still in its infancy, and the infighting between tech-giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon isn’t limited to their own field.
Retailers, distributors, and IoT manufacturers are all attempting to create their own proprietary software, which may or may not include a digital assistant interface, and it isn’t clear whether any of these devices are going to play nice with each other.
Early adopters are probably all too familiar with this type of power struggle. However, since the primary benefit of digital assistants for both companies and consumers is dependent on integration, this phase of the process is likely very frustrating for anyone that has already invested in one system over another.
To Buy or Not to Buy?
If you’re envisioning an omnipresent voice that can hear and respond to all of your wants, needs, and desires, like a state of the art spaceship from a JJ Abrams movie—digital assistants just aren’t there yet.
The sad part is that the reason why we don’t have these things is not because the technology doesn’t exist, but because companies haven’t settled on how we’ll get there. And since all of the major players in this game have a vast stockpile of resources to match their egos, it may be a while before we do get there.
However, we have passed a point of no return, where this is no longer a question of if, but a question of when. In the meantime, you’ll have to decide if you’re comfortable with your digital home assistant only connecting with some of the IoT devices in your home and how much joy you derive from novelty features, like the ability to call out for music or tease a computer with your existential questions about life.
When you don’t need high-speed Internet access for work or research, social media is a great way to interact with friends, while taking some time to relax. In fact, social media is an integral part of many people’s lives, but as its popularity has increased, so have its potential dangers. An average of 10% of social media users have been a victim of a cyber-attack through social media, and more than 600,000 Facebook accounts alone are compromised on a daily basis. Knowing the potential risks and security best practices can help you stay safer and avoid scams. Start implementing these five tips today.
1. Keep Your Profiles Private
Scam artists love social media because it gives them easy access to large networks of potential targets. They can use a seemingly innocuous beach photo or vacation post to learn more about you and your purchases or location — the exact type of information that makes it easier to crack passwords or access other accounts. By keeping your profiles private and allowing only your friends to see your updates, you limit the information that malicious third parties can access.
2. Be Careful with What You Post
Even if your profile is private, there’s a chance your posts could be leaked or discovered by a hacker, so don’t post anything that reveals personal information about yourself. Here are a few examples of what should be off-limits for social media posts:
- Home address
- Phone number
- Bank name or information
- Photos of ID or passport
Turn off location services so you don’t reveal your posting location, and never announce when you’re home alone or leaving your home unattended.
3. Ignore Gimmicks
The most common scams on Facebook are online surveys and fake offers, though these scams can be found on other social media platforms, too. Avoid offers for free merchandise or online surveys in exchange for gift cards or prizes. If it sounds like an offer is too good to be true — “Share this post and win $1,000!” or “You just won a free iPad!” — it likely is. By clicking on these posts, you may accidentally download malware or share personal information with a hacker.
4. Use Strong Passwords
You’ve likely seen or heard of the many people who have had their accounts hacked. Hackers and malicious programs can use hacked profiles to post spam, inappropriate comments, or links to surveys and giveaways — all without the profile owner realizing it. And using a weak password makes it much easier for a cybercriminal to gain access to your account this way.
While there is no such thing as an entirely hack-proof password, you can create strong, hard-to-crack passwords. Use a long combination of various characters, including numbers and symbols, and avoid using words or common phrases. Three or four times a year, update your passwords and create different ones for each account.
5. Check Out Your Profile on a Regular Basis
With so many social media platforms available, many people create profiles on multiple sites and then abandon them shortly thereafter. But if you forget about a profile, you may never know if it was hacked. Regardless of how frequently you use a platform, review your profile at least weekly for spam or suspicious activity.
If you think your account has been compromised, change your password immediately and then contact the site’s support portal to report the issue. If you no longer want to use a platform, delete the account rather than leave it unattended.
Social media is a fun way to stay connected with friends and family online. By following these five safety tips, you can feel more confident in the security of your profile and personal information.