We have Amazon’s smart speakers, so I don’t know if this is true for Google or Apple digital assistants. But the Alexa series of speakers has a default wake word and several non-default options you can elect to use instead. Never use the default — that’s a good general security maxim. We had other factors in our wake word decision – a friend of Scott’s has a daughter whose name is quite close to Alexa and I foresaw the speaker going crazy if they’d speak of her. But the fact is, day 0 of the device … I expected advertisers to incorporate “Alexa, give me more info on product XYZ” in their ads. Aaaand now we have South Park season 21’s first episode.
This is just goofy stuff – maybe words you don’t want replaying at inopportune moments, maybe an alarm way too early in the morning for you. Remember TV commercials that asked kids to hold the telephone handset up to the screen and then played DTMF to ring the order hotline? Alexa, call 800-###-####. Hell, they could order Amazon products on your credit card. Something like ShopSafe (a unique card number with a low limit that actually rejects purchases over that limit) can be tied to your account. It’s extra work to keep updating the card on your account, but I’d rather Alexa buy 12$ of something I didn’t want than 250$. Then our speakers do not have unfettered access to my credit card – there’s a pin required to make purchases. I’m sure that won’t stop your kid who overhears the code from using it, but it prevents television programs, radio shows, and party-goers from buying random junk as a joke.