In June, Microsoft issued a patch for Cortana to solve a vulnerability whereby threat actors could access devices by activating their search functions, even if the devices were locked. As threat levels increase and the use of digital assistants grows, we wanted to take a look at how security concerns, as well as knowledge of security management, really plays out in the consumer mind.
With Amazon Prime Day (and a half) kicking off today, we undertook a survey of 1,000 UK consumers to find out their purchasing plans and how many had digital assistants are at the top of their shopping list. Just shy of half (49%) of individuals who do not yet own a digital assistant plan to get one over the next 30 hours if the price is right. However, the highest cited reason for those not planning to purchase one was a concern over security, with 20% of those not planning to buy — stating this was the main factor.
Over two thirds (68%) of people surveyed already use a digital assistant, with Siri (23%) and Amazon Alexa/Dot (21%) revealed as the most popular. On the whole, digital assistants are still used in a relatively low risk way. Also uncovered was that 84% of digital assistants are connected to two or fewer devices and only 9% of those surveyed said they are aware of use in their workplace.
However, six out of ten consumers (57%) maintain the default settings on their devices and fewer than 40% know how to personalise security settings at all.
As consumers begin to connect to more devices while still maintaining the default security settings, the risk and vulnerability will only increase. As such, it’s critical that consumers purchasing these devices really understand how they work and ensure that they are getting their desired level of security and privacy by personalising the security settings.
Furthermore, consumers demonstrate some confusion over basic operation. One third (31%) believe that digital assistants only listen when the command is raised, another third (30%) are unsure and the final third (39%) believe the technologies listen at all times. Interestingly, fewer than a third of users (31%) ever use the mute function on their assistants.
Digital assistants should only be used in an environment where users are comfortable with the fact that it is listening to every single word that is said. Failsafe mechanisms must be in place to prevent the assistant from taking any unintended actions. And the workplace – well that’s a whole new ballgame.
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*methodology: 1,000 employed UK residents aged 20-65 polled via www.citizenme.com