What Appliances are Spying on Me?

I recently read an article about college roommates talking about adopting a cat from the local shelter.  The group of friends never searched about cats, cat litter, cat training or anything related to felines on their phones. A few hours after the conversation, guess what started to appear in their Facebook feeds? Cats. Lot and lots of cats, everywhere.  Ads for cat food, cat toys and litter boxes began appearing everywhere.

The truth is that every device or appliance that has a camera, speakers, a microphone or AI capabilities has the potential to be used to spy on you. Even Mark Zuckerberg is said to put black tape over his laptop camera unless he is using it so that people can’t hack it and spy on him. As technology advances the Orwellian possibilities of Big Brother spying on us is less and less a conspiracy theory. The capability is there. Companies can do it. And they will allow government agencies access too if they request it. 

Most people laugh and say “blahh I have nothing to hide” or “they would never do that”. But again, the capabilities are there. Companies are building these spying capabilities intentionally into our devices. They say it is for “marketing purposes”. But my point is it could be used for more nefarious purposes if put in the wrong hands. Just saying.

If you would like to read about what devices in your home emit RF Radiation, see my article “The 7 Worst Radiation Dangers In Your Home“.

Smart Meters and You

Smart Meter Covers

Smart meters are taking over the country as the new form of energy data collection for power companies.  Over the past couple of years, power companies have been switching out analog meters for high tech smart meters.  The new meters eliminate the need for someone to come to your house and physically check your power usage for the past month.

The smart meter takes the place of the meter reader by sending your energy data back to the power company every day.  But, it turns out these smart meters can glean a lot information about you and your energy using habits from all that data.  According to security experts, smart meters could pose a risk to your identity, your safety and make you a target for profiling.  Smart meters are an invasion of privacy and some say the collection of data violates your Constitutional rights.

According to a recent 75-page report from a cyber security company, smart meters have the capability to track when you are using your appliances, when you have guests in town (extra hot water), and when you are on vacation.  Experts believe if the data collected from your home is hacked, high tech burglars could watch your home in real time, planning the perfect opportunity to break in and steal your television, your great grandpa’s baseball card collection and your favorite leather couch.

All of this is a very real possibility with the smart meter grid.  How terrifying is that? You go on vacation only to find your home empty when you return. The report also indicates power companies can tell what room you are in based on the energy consumption levels.  Uh. No thanks.  My power company does not need to know when I’m cooking eggs or watching my favorite show on Netflix.

“With regard to informing consumers of smart grid risk-related information, utilities and manufacturers have no incentive to inform consumers of these risks since such action would create an even greater consumer backlash against the deployment of the smart grid technologies.  Risk-related information is being deliberately suppressed by the smart grid industry, and the public is being provided misinformation which would indicate that there are no additional privacy or security risks related to smart meters as compared to the old analog meters,” takebackyourpower.net.

Smart meters are also really bad for your health. Smart meters send information about your energy usage thousands of times a day.  Originally, power companies claimed it only retrieved data once or twice a day.  Turns out that is not true.  When smart meters send information, it uses bursts of energy to send the data back to a server.  Those bursts of energy create dirty electricity.

Dirty electricity emits harmful radio frequency radiation which is known to cause serious health problems.  I lived next to a bank of smart meters at my old home and I can tell you I didn’t sleep well for years.  During that time, I didn’t recall a single dream- not one.  It wasn’t until I moved into home with a digital meter than I finally reached a deep level of sleep where dreams come to life.  Now I’m dreaming every night. Smart meter radiation is linked depression, sleep problems, cancer, tumors, ADHD, memory problems, anxiety and more.  All of that from a smart meter? Suddenly a smart meter is not so smart after all.

Smart Home

Smart HomeThe Real estate is hot right now.  It seems like everywhere you look homes are selling like hot cakes in most markets.  Have you stopped to read any of these listings? Smart homes are now a big draw for potential buyers.  So, what makes a smart home so smart? It’s all about technology, WIFI and your phone! Basically, with a single device, like your phone or tablet, you can control everything about your home from an APP.

On your way home from work and want to pre-heat your oven for the pepperoni take and back you just picked up? Easy cheesy.  Just a press of a button from your phone and your oven is on and ready to go for pizza night by the time you pull in the driveway.

You can now control your lighting, appliances, security system, thermostat, doorbell, vacuum, washing machine and your FitBit  all from an app.  And all of these appliances can basically spy on you, collecting intel on your daily habits and more.

All these modern-day conveniences are also overloading our bodies with electromagnetic frequency radiation, also referred to as EMF.  In order to have a high-tech home, you need WIFI to connect all of these devices together.  WIFI routers are a big source of radiation in your home.  This type of exposure has been linked to sleep issues, irritability, heart issues and infertility.

“Frequent exposure to radio frequencies, similar to EMFs from smart home gadgets, can reduce sperm movement and cause DNA fragmentation. Both tests on humans and animals confirmed that exposure negatively affects sperm.  In a separate study, it showed that exposure to some wireless frequencies, just like the smart home network, may prevent egg implantation.

Researchers exposed mice to radiation for two hours a day, for 45 days, and found that it had significantly increased oxidative stress levels. This can lead to abnormal pregnancy or failure of the egg to implant,” vesttech.com

So, there are clearly health issues when you live in a smart home.  Let’s look at the privacy concerns too.  If you can control your entire home from an App on your phone, what’s going to prevent someone else from gaining access to your home too?  Like the smart meters, smart homes make us vulnerable to hackers.

This means people with bad intentions could literally be spying on you half way around the world.  And then the hackers could pass along that information to other hackers in your hometown and then your house is burglarized in the middle of the night.   A recent study by a cyber security company, analyzed 16 of the most used home automation systems.  Of the 16 systems, the security company was able to hack into every single one.

“By exploiting vulnerabilities in home automation devices, attackers can gather information on targets, threatening their privacy and safety, understanding their behavior and patterns.  According to the finding of the Synack study, connected cameras are the automotive devices having the greatest number of security vulnerabilities. Synack found that the smart devices tested don’t encrypt data and implement weak password policies.

All of the connected thermostats studied were affected by serious security issues that could be exploited to control them; even the home automation centers present numerous flaws.  The principal problem when dealing with Internet of Things devices is that manufacturers don’t have strong backgrounds in cyber security. It is not easy for manufacturers to design smart objects that could be used in so different scenarios,” Infosecinstitute.com.

So, what can hackers do with all this information? We’ve already run the home invasion scenario.  But, with all those video cameras inside and outside your home, there’s a chance people are watching you in real time for entertainment purposes.  Pretty scary stuff.  Well, you think my life really isn’t that interesting, who cares? What about your kids?

Do you really want somebody in Illinois watching your child sleep in your home in Seattle? That’s where the line has to be drawn.  Hackers have been compromising digital baby monitors for a long time.  What’s even more frightening is the risk of kidnapping or abduction, since hackers can access and watch these cameras in real time.

Alexa

AlexaThink about all the information you have stored on your computer; phone and how much Alexa knows about your shopping habits.  Whew.  It’s a lot of information.  When you turn your home into a smart, wired home you open the doors on your privacy and your personal information.  It wasn’t too long ago when you needed something from the store, you’d get in your car and go get it.

Now, all you have to do is ask Alexa to order you your favorite granola bars and in some cities those gluten free vegan bars will be at your door step in under two hours- delivered by a drone, none the less. All these different portals with access to your personal information are collecting data and basically spying on your every purchase, every move and every conversation.

I recently read an article where Alexa recorded a conversation and the ultimate murder of a man in Arkansas.  Turns out Alexa can record conversations and stores them in the cloud.  The courts in this case specifically asked Amazon to release the recordings.  Amazon is not releasing the information on the grounds it violates their consumer’s privacy.  Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post about this incredibly tragic and interesting murder investigation:

The Echo is equipped with seven microphones and responds to a “wake word,” most commonly “Alexa.” When it detects the wake word, it begins streaming audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word, according to the Amazon website.

A recording and transcription of the audio is logged and stored in the Amazon Alexa app and must be manually deleted later. For instance, if you asked your Echo, “Alexa, what is the weather right now?” you could later go back to the app to find out exactly what time that question was asked,” Washington Post.

Who knew?  Anything with a microphone or camera has the potential to spy on you. I certainly didn’t know that Alexa came with seven microphones.  So, Alexa is a virtual assistant and a spy? Hmmm.

Identity Theft

Speaker PhoneAll of this wireless transmission of information from your appliances could very well expose you to identity theft.  Identity theft is a major issue across the country and world. It’s estimated there were 16.7 million victims of identity theft in 2016.  Smart home, smart appliances and our smart meter make us more vulnerable to becoming a victim.  Equifax, a credit monitoring company, suggests using difficult to guess passwords to prevent identity thieves from stealing your information.

Also, be wary of your fitness watches.  If this data about your heart rate, blood pressure and other personal information is unsecure and altered, Equifax believes it could increase your health insurance and life insurance rates.

Multitasking is easier than ever before with the help of modern day devices, appliance, gadgets and our own virtual assistants.  Using these products in our home in some ways, makes life so much easier.  However, the appliances are recording and watching our every move.  The data collected makes us vulnerable and violates our privacy.  Something to think about the next time you ask Alexa to order you granola bars.  She knows everything!

For more information on the RF radiation emitted from smart appliances please see our article entitled What Smart Appliances Emit Radiation?

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