CNET Smart Home
Tricking voice recognition on Amazon Echo and Google HomeHow easy is it to fool the voice recognition on these smart speakers? And what does that mean for the security of your info?
[MUSIC] Hi Google what is my name. Your name is Andrew. That is right thanks Google. Both Google assistant built into Google homes and Amazon digital assistant Alexa built into Amazon On Echo speakers can currently recognize your voice. I really like the feature actually. With Google you can check your personal calendar, check flights, check traffic on your way to work. With Alexa you can make calls, get a personalized daily briefing. Both of them can play your customized playlists, both can make purchases verified only by recognizing your voice. When Google first rolled out the feature this spring, we found it could be fooled by similar voices. But can we intentionally trick both speakers? Let's find out. Hey Google, who am I? I remember you saying it's Andrew. Hey Google, who am I? I remember you telling me your name was Andrew. Here we go. Hey, Google. What's my name? Your name is Steve. Hey, Google. What's my name? Your name is Steve. Okay, Google. What's my name? Your name is Ry. Okay, Google what's my name? [MUSIC] Your name is Andrew. Do it again. Okay, Google, what's my name? Your name is Ry. Okay, Google, what's my name? [MUSIC] Your name is Ry. Do I really sound like that? Okay Google, what's my name? Your name is MOLLY. Okay Google. What's my name? Your name is MOLLY. Alexa, what's my name? Andrew is speaking. You're in Andrew's account. Alexa, what's my name? Andrew is speaking, you're in Andrew's account. Alexa, what's my name? I'm talking to Steve, this is Steve's account. Alexa, what's my name? I'm talking to Steve, this is Steve's account. Alexa, what's my name? I'm talking to Ry, this is Kevin's account. Alexa, what's my name? [BLANK_AUDIO] I'm not sure who's speaking, but you're in Kevin's account. I thought that was the one. That felt close. Yeah, I thought you had it too. Alexa, what's my name. [BLANK_AUDIO] I think you're Rie. This is Kevin's account. Alexa What's my name? I'm talking to Megan, this is Kevin's account. Alexa, what's my name? I'm talking to Megan, this is Kevin's account. So Chris found he could impersonate all three of us with some success, on both Amazon Echo and the Google Home. Megan and Molly were able to impersonate each other on both platforms, so both platforms can be fooled. Meaning if someone sounds like you, they can access your personal information. They can make purchases on your account. Hey Google, order lightbulbs. [MUSIC] Okay, here's something from Walmart on Google Express. I can get four Great Value Daylight White, nine LED lightbulbs for $8.78. Would you like to order that? Yesh. [MUSIC] Okay. As far as those purchases, with Google you saw Chris able to make a purchase on my behalf. With Alexa when you first turn on voice purchasing, there is a voice pin option but you do need to enable it. So if you're worried about security, you can turn off voice purchasing in both apps. You can turn off personal results entirely in Google if you don't want people finding out what's on your calendar and you can delete your voice profile in Alexa. Google even says in the Google Home app to be careful with your info as a similar voice might be able to access it. As far as this experiment, here's what Google had to say. Users shouldn't rely upon voice match as a security. Feature. It is possible for a user to not be identified or for a guest to be identified as a connected user. Those cases are rare, but they do exist and we're continuing to work to making the product better. Alexa claims to be more secure, as the company confirms it listens to the entire utterance, not just the wake word. We found that to be sorta true as Chris struggled to imitate why. But. We were still able to fool it quite a few times. That said, the longer utterances of making a purchase might cause more trouble for someone trying to impersonate you. When asked for comment, Amazon declined. So, enjoy the conveniences of these cool features. Just be cautious about what's enabled and who in your household could feasibly sound like you.