You may have seen a couple of news articles about Google Home devices getting hacked.
I know, it sounds terrifying…
Especially if you have little kids at home.
Any home gadgets and devices you have can compromise your family’s safety and privacy.
But it doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to protect your home from such harm.
Read on to learn:
- How smart speakers are hacked.
- 6 dangers of using smart speakers at home.
- How to enable Google Home security features.
- 10 tips to secure Google Home or Nest assistants.
- How to stop Google Home from taking commands.
- And a lot more…
Can Google Home / Nest be hacked?
Google Home can be hacked either through your Wi-Fi router or from phishing attacks. Hackers can use Google Home to set commands, collect personal and bank information, spy, or breach home security systems. You can secure your device by securing your Wi-Fi connection and enabling security functions.
Can Google Home / Nest be hacked – 6 dangers
#1: Hackers can set commands
This is one of the scariest things that hackers can do. As it can literally harm and put your family in danger.
Yes, Google Home devices are voice-activated. Meaning, it will only follow instructions once it hears your voice say the command phrase.
But hackers can also set commands once they gain access to it.
Ever heard of stories of people hearing someone speak on their smart speakers?
Or smart speakers “randomly” setting alarms?
All those things happen because someone controls their system.
Once a hacker gains access to your Google Home app, they can pretty much do everything.
For once, they can speak to you through the speaker or display if you use Google Nest Hub.
If not, they can control other smart devices at your home.
They can change your thermostat, turn on or off your lights, open your smart TV, or worse, unlock your smart door.
#2: Hackers can collect personal information
Google Home functions by asking for access to your location, contacts, calendar, other smart devices, and more.
And that’s exactly how hackers get personal information about you.
“But smartphones and PCs access the same thing. Why are smart speakers more of a threat?”
Because smart speakers can know exactly what you’re doing at that very moment. They can hear and see you.
If the hacker has an intention to rob your house, they’ll know when’s the best time to do that.
They’ll know about your schedule if there are people around, and probably where things are as well.
#3: Hackers can spy through it
This is especially true for Google Nest Hub owners. As it has a display and a camera which makes spying easier.
Hackers can access your device’s speaker and camera as well. And watch over your entire home.
It’s truly creepy and scary. As your family’s privacy, safety, and security are at risk all at the same time.
You’ll never know their intention. As they can use your Google Home devices to embarrass, expose, manipulate or harm you.
Spying on smart speakers has become a common phenomenon. That certain studies were made to observe the behaviors of users.
And use those observations to help design better tech security features.
#4: Hackers can hack your social media accounts
Some users link their Google Home app and social media accounts to the same email address.
Giving hackers more chances of accessing their social media as well.
A lot of non-tech persons underestimate how one small digital piece of information can give so much.
Once they have gained access to your email, they can access, change, or delete any of your other accounts.
Next to that is them getting information about your family, friends, and work.
#5: Hackers can access your bank accounts
Newer models of smart speakers can do more and better things. Now, Google Home or Nest can help you buy online and even pay bills.
While it’s convenient, it exposes your bank accounts to more harm.
Hackers can access and transfer money from your account much easier. Especially if you use it a lot for online transactions.
They won’t need to send you phishing attacks or spam anymore to get your bank information.
It will also be easier for them to see your buying history and collect other information.
This includes your home or work address, phone number, and complete legal name.
#6: Hackers can breach your home security system
Hackers can pretty much access anything that is connected to your Google Home app.
And that includes your home alert and security system.
It’s dangerous for both kids and adults. As hackers can control and possibly locate your home security devices.
For this case, you might have to ask authorities for help. As changing and resetting your device alone might not help drop the security threat.
Learn more: Should smart devices be on a separate network?
Bonus: Laser-powered light can activate Google Home
According to a study, laser lights can activate voice-activated smart speakers.
Sugawara and his team had tried activating Google Home using a laser light 250 ft. (76.2 m) away from the device. And, it worked!
Google has yet to address this specific Google Home vulnerability.
But you won’t have to worry about it for now. As doing this requires expertise and specific equipment that most people don’t have.
Note: This was done for research purposes. And there’s no actual incident record like this.
You might also want to know: Can Alexa Be Hacked? 10 Shocking Security Facts
10 tips to secure your Google Home / Nest (for maximum safety)
#1: Disable UPnP
Hackers can’t directly hack your Google Home app. What they do is hijack your Wi-Fi router by exploiting the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP).
UPnP is essential to help devices easily connect and communicate with each other. But hackers have made a way to use it to hack people’s devices and accounts.
The good news is that you can disable the UPnP protocol on your router. This will lessen the chances of malicious people hacking your devices.
To disable UPnP on your router:
- Log in to your router account.
- Go to the “Advanced” setting.
- Select “Advanced Networking.”
- And disable “UPnP.”
Tip: Some routers don’t allow disabling UPnP. If this is your case, consider changing your router. You can try Google Wi-Fi, as according to reports, it’s safe from this exploitation.
#2: Secure your Wi-Fi
Since hackers hack your smart speakers through Wi-Fi, then it’s best to secure it.
Make sure to create a strong Wi-Fi password. Combine it with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
Consider using a WPA2 encrypted Wi-Fi network to ensure safe and secure browsing. And if possible, avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks.
This will prevent you from accidentally entering phishing sites. Plus, prevent hackers from connecting to your devices.
#3: Use password managers
Using a password manager will add an extra layer of protection to your accounts.
This will come in handy, especially if you’re the type of person who often forgot passwords.
Password managers generate strong random passwords for your accounts. It also stores and auto-fills your passwords if needed.
It’s perfect for people who use several accounts and devices at home. As this helps prevent hackers from further breaking in on your other devices.
#4: Select what you connect
It’s fun and convenient to use Google Home for anything at home. Like turning on and off the lights or playing music on your huge stereo speakers.
But knowing its risks, it’s wiser to be selective on what apps and devices you connect to it.
Important Advice: Don’t connect your home security functions to your Google Home app. Also, give it a thought if you would need to connect your calendar and work email.
To check which apps and devices you’ve connected to your Google Home:
- Go to Google Assistant app.
- Click the explore icon at the bottom-right corner.
- Scroll down to the bottom.
- Select “Your Actions.”
- And tap “Linked.”
Unlink any security functions and apps and devices that you don’t use anymore.
#5: Link device to Google account
To better ensure security on your devices, make sure to link your Google Home or Nest to any Google account.
If possible, make a new one to prevent Google itself or hackers from accessing your past emails.
The key benefits of linking your device to a Google account are:
- It provides regular security checkups.
- It offers an Advanced Protection Program.
- It enables you to use two-factor authentication.
- It sends out security alerts for suspicious activities.
#6: Enable voice match
If you want to ensure privacy even inside of your home, make sure to enable Google voice match.
When enabled, Google Home will identify your voice and personalize its response based on the data it has about you.
Anyone at your home can use Google Home. But with voice match, only you can access your personal accounts such as calendar or email.
To enable Google voice match:
- Go to the Google Home app.
- Tap your personal icon at the upper-right corner.
- Proceed to “Assistant settings.”
- Look for and tap “Assistant.”
- Scroll down and select “Voice Match.”
- Click “Add a device.”
- Wait for Google to scan your network, then click “Continue.”
- Tap “I agree” under “Activate Voice Match on this app.”
- Scroll down and tap the “I agree” box once more.
- Then simply follow Google’s next instructions for voice recognition.
Watch this video to know how to set up Voice Match:
#7: Authenticate purchases and payments
Shopping online and paying bills is now easier with Google Home and Nest.
It’s not advisable for users to do it as it increases the risk of bank account hacking.
But if it helps ease your daily life, then go ahead and shop!
Google has already addressed this danger by making users confirm their every transaction.
To protect your money and prevent accidental transactions, enable purchase authentication. Here’s how:
- Go to Google Home App settings.
- Proceed to “Payment Settings.”
- And choose to confirm identity before paying.
#8: Delete commands and data
Hackers can also collect other information through the data stored in your device.
If you want to delete all or specific past commands, you can do so by clearing your stored data.
Note: Deleting commands or data may dysfunction your device for a short while. But Google Home is a smart device, so it will relearn commands in no time.
To delete commands on your Google Home:
- Go to “Assistant,” then “Your data.”
- Select “My Activity.”
- Tap the three-dot icon next to the search bar.
- Click “Delete Activity” either by all time, last day, last hour or during a specific time.
- And tap “Confirm.”
#9: Turn off microphone and camera
As mentioned, smart speakers like Google Nest Hub are prone to spying.
To protect your family from such harm, turn off your device’s microphone and camera when not in use.
It will also prevent your device from picking up conversations. Which it might mistake as a command.
For cameras, you can buy affordable camera covers online for extra protection.
#10: Change “hot phrase”
Google Home or Nest activates once it hears “Ok Google.”
But sometimes it mistakes conversations from TV or radio as a command. Especially that “okay” is a pretty common word.
To prevent that, you can try changing its command phrase, known as hot phrase. Here’s how:
- Go to Google Home App.
- Tap the sliders icon at the top-middle corner.
- Select “Hot Phrase.”
- And type in your preferred command.
You have the freedom to choose anything you like. From “What’s up, Google!” to “Bro, listen…”
Doing this will also prevent hackers from setting commands to your device. As they won’t know at first that you’ve changed your command phrase.
Bonus: Cancel commands with “Never mind”
Some Google Home or Nest owners didn’t know that they can cancel commands.
Since Google Home devices have sensitive speakers, they can easily pick up conversations from your house or a TV show. And mistake them as commands.
Because it’s activated, it records whatever it hears. Including private conversations between your family or friends.
So, to prevent such scenarios, quickly shout “Never mind!” This will stop Google Home from further listening and taking commands.
You might also like: Is a Google Home safe to use in the bathroom?