Technologically Suspicious

by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp — all-in-one help authoring tool

Robots are often described as some kind of intruders in literature or movies, and games. And most of the time, it never ends well (try Terminator — so many sequels and humanity still losing). But if you think about that, we already in an era of robots, not the ones that look exactly like humans, but smartphones, voice-activated assistants, smart gadgets for your home, cars with auto-driving, and even homes. So many things are automated now. And it is for the best, of course, especially when we are talking about dangerous jobs where people could get injured. In the perfect world, where humanity finally learns to get the maximum benefit from automating everything, humans are supposed to live much more carefree.

It is easy to control individual devices remotely: the first TV remote control appeared in the 50s of the last century. But the Internet of Things (IoT) has connected all the tech we use with a network. It changed our lives: now we have complete control over all devices in the house. We can use one single controller to control the music center, TV, heating and lighting systems, and even door locks.

Marketing specialists convince us that with a smart home, our lives will become more comfortable. However, there is the flip side of the coin. The Internet contains many dangers, and all devices connected to the network become vulnerable.

Working as a technical writer, I feel the need to minimize the technicalities in my home. Knowing what’s going on behind the scenes, it’s hard for me to trust the devices when I know the possible problems that I may encounter. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but for me, the minimalistic approach, technically-wise, is the smartest.

Working in tech makes you more paranoid about the potential risks of so-called smart devices.

Various elements of the smart home have discovered their vulnerability to cyber-attacks. At the same time, cases when hackers deliberately attacked the smart house of a certain are so far individual. Experts recommend using strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA), configuring devices manually, installing an antivirus on your computer and smartphone to block malicious software, to protect smart home devices from dangerous cyber attacks.

According to some researches, it’s possible to hack voice-activated assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. These systems are sensitive to hidden commands that you don’t hear. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed that such command sounds could be in YouTube videos, radio programs, and even in the white noise. This situation carries a potential threat because someone can make your phone call somebody, open websites, or even buy something and unlock the door of the smart home through the speech recognition systems.

Speaking about a spoken text, as you know, technical writers create different content including audio content and video documentation with sound. Sometimes a company may pay a third party to create audio versions of some documentation parts. In the wrong hands, this may cause significant problems — hidden commands in an audio file that third-party produces may have your smartphone make an unnecessary purchase, or even send company confidential data to the attacker. It is highly possible that some anti-audio-virus programs will be created in the future to solve these problems and detect harmful sounds. Who knows! Nowadays you should be careful with any audio content you get from a third party. A workaround may be to produce this content in-house rather than outsourcing this work.

A lot of changes connected with automation are happening here and there, but we still need to figure this out and learn to balance things. We need to understand where it works best, which directions should receive more investments, and where we need to be more cautious about moving forward with automation.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you trust smart devices or you’d rather have “dumb” ones? :)

Have a nice day!

Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors

Content Manager at https://medium.com/level-up-web 👈. I write about web design, web development and technical writing. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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