Can NSA Use Amazon Alexa Or Google Home To Spy – Craig’s Heading To Florida: AS HEARD ON – WTAG NewsRadio 580 [02-06-18]
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Airing date: 02/06/2018
Can NSA Use Amazon Alexa Or Google Home To Spy – Craig’s Heading To Florida
Craig Peterson: [00:00:00] Hi Craig Peterson here. Hey if you’ve ever wondered about your Google Home or your Amazon Alexa or the new Apple Homepod. Have you ever wondered about those and whether or not those devices can monitor what you’re saying? Could the NSA use them? How about the bad guys? Well I go through in some detail this morning with Jim Polito talking about what the implications of having those devices in your home are? How this type of technology has been used at least for 15 years by the federal government to monitor and spy on people? And what you should do going forward to help make sure that you’re safe, not just from a government surveillance program, but from the bad guys who are out there as well trying to get your personal and private information. Here we go
Jim Polito: [00:00:58] You know with Tommy B, Tommy B has Alexa now and I love talking to the Alexa over the radio because like all the people who are listening to us who have an Alexa in the room she starts answering. I’m not going to do it right now. It’s a little fresh of me to behave that way but it’s kind of funny but here’s the real problem. Who else is messing with Alexa or Google Home? Who else is listening? What’s the NSA got to do with all this and voice recognition? Joining us now the man who always has the answers. Our good friend and Tech Talk guru Craig Peterson. Good morning sir.
Craig: [00:01:40] Good morning. It’s going to be a bit of a nasty day tomorrow. So I was going to head on out but I think I’m going to stay home, go to Florida on Saturday instead of tomorrow.
Jim: [00:01:52] Oh what a shame. Oh I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that you had to change your plans. Now let me ask you a question. When a Canadian like you goes to Florida this time of year do you have to take salt tablets and quinine and you have to eat limes so you don’t get scurvy? I mean you have to wear like 1000 block, you know, sunscreen?
Craig: [00:02:19] I know four or five different hats in my closet. Usually it would be three to five minutes of exposure and I would burn.
Jim: [00:02:28] Yeah. You’re Canadian.
Craig: [00:02:30] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So I did a blood test to check some other stuff right. I went to the local blood test place and had them run a whole set of things and with my medical background I looked at it and I found I was way low on vitamin D. Sorry I started taking vitamin D3 doses. And you know what, Jim, I can spend a half hour in the sun now without getting burned. It’s amazing.
Jim: [00:02:58] There’s a lot of doctors really. Mine did a few years ago. He said I’m going to test you for vitamin D and I said I drink plenty of milk. He said you don’t drink that much. He said not enough. He said it’s the new thing. Not just for that health but for cardiovascular health. And two times I went back and he said still not enough. He said go to the big box store and get one of those ones with a giant yellow gel caps. He said start taking that and then he said OK your levels of vitamin D are up now. Very important. Very, very important.
Craig: [00:03:33] One of my daughters was so low her doctor put her on prescription vitamin D. It’s like 50,000 IUs or something a day of vitamin D3. And I think the U.S. RDA is like 200 and it got it up to normal levels. I looked at my dad and all of the symptoms he has had, he’s had a heart attack problem here and there. All of them go back to a D3 deficiency. So that’s how my dad was my age he’d already had one or two heart attack and I’m still going strong.
Jim: [00:04:11] And that was probably your fault because you don’t have heart trouble but you’re a carrier.
Craig: [00:04:16] You know what? My dad remarried. I have kids, excuse me, I have half-brothers the age of my kids. So he was in his 70s before the kids finally were old enough to leave the house. Can you imagine that?
Jim: [00:04:33] Now I’m going to be like my stepsons I think. I’m only kidding. I’m only kidding. So tell me about this, the NSA voice recognition. Man It all sounds Enemy of the State to me.
Craig: [00:04:48] Doesn’t it? Yeah don’t look up. Right? Here’s the issue. The NSA has had some programs in place for quite a while to track people. And since about 2004 they’ve had some speaker recognition systems that they were using to try and match voices. So for instance here, we know way back when we had been able to track Saddam Hussein and Hussein Hussein and we did that because of the phones they were using. They were encrypted phones but we could break into those phones because there was a back door built into those phones. Move forward now to about 10 years ago, we were trying to track the Pakistani army chief of staff and we were trying to figure out where he was and was he involved with that Bin Laden character. Right. And so what they started doing is trying to run audio through our NSA systems to see if we can do a voice match. Now the problem they had was they said we can’t build a viable model, Jim, because we don’t have enough voice clips. Unlike you and me right. I’ve got thousand hours of podcasts, you know.
And they said well we’re not really sure if we can track him. Apparently the Iranian delegates were here in New York City back in ‘07 and we were doing much the same thing. We were scanning the voice traffic. In other words all of the phone calls that were being made, cellular and landline, to try and track more than 100 Iranian delegates that came to New York in ‘07. We know that now. So let us fast forward to today. We’ve got the Coast Guard who is very concerned because there have been so many false mayday call. And so they’re coming in over the VHF system that they scanned, that almost all boats have on them, the little radios, and they’re trying to figure out who’s calling these in because they have an affirmative duty to respond when somebody puts out a mayday. So we have all of these resources out there now trying to find people who aren’t really lost, aren’t really going down, et cetera. And they thought well maybe there’s just a handful of people. And so what the Coast Guard has done is they’ve put a system in that listens to the VHF traffic, listens for maydays. And then if there is a mayday, the Coast Guard is informed this is a caller who is called multiple times and has reported falsely at least as far as we can tell what’s been false reports right. Because there is no caller ID on VHF right. You don’t know who’s radioing in.
So, let’s move forward to today.
Millions of people, probably tens, hundreds maybe, millions of people have these devices you just mentioned. You know the Amazon Echo and the Google Home out there. So here’s how they work. And now Apple has their device. It’s called the Homepod that’s coming out. Apple does things differently. They really have security in mind. So let’s focus on those two. Here’s what happens if I were to say OK Google, Google is going to wake up. In fact it probably did. Or if I called out Alexa, it’s going to wake up now and it’s going to wait for a command. It’s going to basically record 30 seconds worth of audio and send it up to the cloud’s where it’s processed and then the command’s executed. So we already have one case that we know of where police said hey, this was a murder, and we want all of the microphone data that the Amazon Alexa had collected. So they got access to it. But remember it’s only recording in both of those cases. Now back in the day a year or so ago where it’s always listening but now it just waits for those, you know, OK Google, Alexa commands. So the court got their hands on it and because the only audio it really had recorded was after you gave the wakeup command. The guy didn’t give the wakeup command and said OK I’m going to kill your wife. So they didn’t have anything useful.
However, let’s talk about the NSA. The NSA has some huge tempting target out there in the form of all of these devices. Now why would they be interested? OK. Here’s the trick Jim. If I want to track someone by their voice, I need voice samples. I don’t necessarily have to turn on the microphone. And if the NSA, FBI, CIA whoever, if they wanted to turn your Echo or Google Home. If they wanted turn those devices into monitoring stations, they would have to have physical access to it and make some software changes to it. OK. So to listen and stream. But why not just stick in a regular wire? Right? At that point. But if I can get samples of your voice enough now that I can listen using either a stingray or just a big blanket, ok, I can identify you. I know where you are. I know what you’re saying. And then on top of that we’ve got these huge databases now that use Google Voice. They’re recording all of that voice. A lot of people, you know they have to play by the same rules if you’re the FBI as they would normally. So they need access to your e-mail or Dropbox. But the NSA might have a way around that too because they don’t necessarily even need a Phizer warrant because they’re gathering everything up every way. Every, you know, any way. So this is a big problem. Yeah, obviously the technology is ahead of the law, ahead of the regulations. We’ll see where it ends up going. But I think we kind of have to think this through more. Do we really want them all to have voice samples? Do we really want good guys, bad guys, questionable guys to have access to it? Because remember if the NSA can get it, the Russians, the Iranians, the North Koreans, whoever the enemy du jour here is right, can get their hands on it and do some pretty nasty things. It’s going to be interesting.
Jim: [00:11:39] Oh, Craig. This was eye opening as usual. Craig Peterson, folks, is our Tech Talk guru. Now, if you think that’s interesting, how would you like to be able to have him send you this type of information? More detail. Without bothering you and without hounding you and without selling your name and without charging you any money. He will do that for you if you text my name to this number.
Craig: [00:12:07] 855-385-5553. That’s 855-385-5553
Jim: [00:12:15] If you do that Craig Peterson will send you this information. And standard data and text rates apply. And if there’s a crisis, if there’s a massive hack, you’ll know, and you’ll know what to do. Craig always a pleasure. We really appreciate the time and take your vitamin D. OK.
Craig: [00:12:33] Yeah, sure.
Jim: [00:12:34] Take care. Bye-bye. Craig Peterson everybody.
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