Connected objects: all those who can spy on you at home


Ever more connected French people. Mobile phone, robot vacuum cleaner, television, light bulb and even refrigerator, our devices are becoming more and more intelligent and this is not always good news. If they are there to make our lives easier, they also have a much darker function, that of collecting data about us.

Thanks to your Alexa connected speaker, Amazon knows almost everything about you because it doesn’t just listen to you when you say its sweet name. Thanks to your mobile phone, giants like Google or Facebook know your centers of interest – thanks to your applications – but also all the places you have visited in recent weeks. Scary, right? Jean-François Beuze is a cybersecurity expert and founder of Sifaris. Questioned by Planet, he confirms that our connected objects “listen to us continuously” and that “they have the ability to spy on individual users as well as professionals”. So what should you watch out for in your own home?

The expert draws up a non-exhaustive list, which certainly includes a majority of devices in your possession: “Connected speakers and television can listen to you and watch you. Your connected bulbs can transmit information to a malicious cyber. It there is also the connected watch, the radiator, the electric shutters, the connected electrical outlets… In fact, depending on its type, the connected object can trace information about voice, data and image”.

When all goes well, the information collected by your connected objects is confidential and used only by the company that sold it to you. In the worst case, when a cyber attacker infiltrates a security hole, then your data is at risk. At that time, explains Jean-François Beuze, he has “the ability to listen to you, to hear you, to see you and to retrieve data on millions of connected objects”.

You think that can only happen in bad sci-fi movies? Think again. Fortunately, there are simple ways to ensure that you are not spied on directly at home by your television, your connected speaker or even your vacuum cleaner.

“People are not aware of the risk”, observes Jean-François Beuze. The most important thing, when configuring a connected object, is “to take the time to read and make sure that you are the only person capable of accessing the objects”. In 2017 the CNIL warned about connected stuffed animals which presented major security problems: a person outside the household could easily hear conversations between the toy and a child. If these stuffed animals have been withdrawn from sale, you must be careful with any connected object that comes into your home, even the most innocuous.

The first thing to do is to turn off the camera and microphone, for example on your mobile phone, when you don’t need them. You can also disable the collection of data unrelated to the operation of your device. Jean-François Beuze adds that there is no silly reflex and that it is better “to turn your phone face down on the table, so we can no longer see you”. For the rest, it’s all a matter of common sense and there is a clue that should alert you…

Do you often have the impression that a social network offers you extremely relevant advertising? Are you still surprised to find a link on your news feed to the brand you mentioned a few minutes before? Don’t be naive and stop believing in chance: your mobile phone – or another connected object – has listened to you. In these cases, clean up your applications and above all, disable the microphone and the camera in the settings.

Jean-François Beuze also invites us to be wary of smartphones, explaining that “each application we have can listen to us, see us and recover our data”. Be especially wary of free applications because, in these cases, “we are the product, it is our data”, adds the cyber security specialist. The solution: turn off your phone, which becomes complicated in our ultra-connected world, where everything is an excuse to use an application to move around, listen to music, etc.