A reader had a question based on recent news reports. He wanted to know if it was actually possible for your microwave oven to spy on you. I’m going to set aside the possibility of kitchen devices outfitted with special spy equipment. Obviously, you could build anything to be a spy device if you wanted.
The answer is, yes. As long as that appliance is a smart appliance. If you can control that microwave with an app or it can “talk” to other appliances, someone else can control it and talk to it.
We’ve all seen those smart appliances that have a camera in the oven or one inside the fridge to let you check the contents. If someone hacked it, they could take over that camera. They might only be able to see you using the fridge or oven, but that could still provide valuable info about your habits and when you’re home and even who is using your fridge. For example, a grocery store chain could use that information about what you keep in stock to target advertising.
Those refrigerators with the built-in tablets on the door that respond to voice commands, they’re capable of both seeing and hearing what’s happening in your kitchen. Remember that anything you can activate by voice, can hear you and record you if it fell into the wrong hands. That doesn’t mean that Google or Microsoft or Apple is doing it, but it’s possible bad actors could take control of any device.
We’ve all heard about the spying involving smart TVs. Hackers even managed to use the computing power of smart home thermostats to pull off an attack. And speaking of your smart thermostat or lighting system, it would be easy for criminals to use data from those devices to figure out when you’re home and when you’re gone.
There’s even a recent case of a Canadian manufacturer of… how do I put this delicately… marital aids, that illegally took data from smartphone controlled couple’s devices. Data including when and where the items were used. They recently had to pay $10,000 Canadian to every user of the app for violating their privacy.
Basically, any device with a connection could be used to spy on you in one form or another. If it doesn’t have a camera or a microphone, it can’t see or hear you. But it still collects other valuable data about your life. Remember, even if a device has a camera and a microphone if it’s not connected to the Internet, it can’t be remotely controlled to gather data.
I want to make it clear, that doesn’t mean your devices are spying on you. You can have windows in our house, that doesn’t mean someone is currently standing on a box peeking in.