Do you ever get the feeing you are being watched? What about listening to it? Do you ever talk about a subject and then see it appear in adverts despite never using a computer to search for it?
Well don’t worry there’s lots of reasons as to why this can occur, and whilst you might want to think someone is spying on you, the truth is they probably aren’t looking for you, but they might be harvesting your data.
Are they out to get ME?
Let’s think about scenarios here:
Q: Is someone tasking a team to collect specific intelligence on YOU?
A: I mean if you are a terrorist or serious criminal then maybe. If you are an average law-abiding person, then almost certainly not. Now that doesn’t mean data isn’t collected, but we’ll talk about that later.
Q: Are devices I use harvesting metadata on me? And are these “shady” organizations selling this data to third parties?
A: Well as a generalization, are people/devices/organizations harvesting data? Absolutely. Are they selling it, well lots are!
Q: Are devices in my home spying on me?
A: Possibly, this is a really complex subject and also the word “spying” here is also an interesting one. This will largely depend on the type of device, the organization that manufactures the device, your home network security “configuration” and well a load of variables.
What could spy on me?
Well, it’s small, it’s noisy, it sounds like a faff but also expensive to implant, and easily discoverable.
My CCTV system… well think about it, it’s a perfect device, its purpose is to “SPY”. It has all the functionality to get VIDEO and maybe AUDIO.
My digital assistant (e.g., ALEXA)? I mean again, this has a microphone, is designed literally to capture voice inputs and will just by nature of device collect, store and process telemetry and data.
My Smart Doorbell – yes again much like CCTV this has all the features and capabilities out of the box.
Now there’s some cool things lights can do (think LIDAR) and given their placements and general fixtures they are cool areas for covert listening devices etc. Are smart light bulbs being used to spy on you? Probably not.
Now, ok, a smart TV has got a range of technology in it. It’s also likely running an Android entertainment system so the potential for this from a telemetry pov is high. TVs generally don’t have microphones and cameras though, so if they are spying, it’s probably advertising related vs someone trying to listen in.
The Smart Kettle
Is my kettle spying on me? Probably not, it’s noisy when in use, it would be obvious under inspection, and I don’t think they are commonplace enough to be a “good” candidate here (today at least)
The Smart Phone
The smart phone is battery powered, mobile, has cameras, microphones, GPS, accelerometers, Bluetooth, WIFI and a massive range of software. This is a great device for spying, not only on data from applications, but also from telemetry and usage data.
The biggest SPY of ALL!
Ok this is me cheating, the biggest spy is probably YOU! It’s you or your friends/family posting images, videos, and stats updates on social media.
There’s lots of potential risk in this space from both a privacy and cyber security perspective, however there’s also lots of work occurring in government and industry to make the IoT world a safer place!