Hey Wiretap – were you listening to me?

If you’ve ever had a camera trained at a smart assistant for any amount of time you’ve probably discovered at some point that it’s woken up and listened to you without you asking.

Usually this is because it accidentally overhears wakewords or something similar to them like “Yoplait poophole,” or “Asphyxia,” coming from another room and then starts transmitting to servers. Sometimes it’s just something on TV. Whatever the case Paranoid Home is betting that you don’t want it listening.

A trio of products from Paranoid Home have been released and they are designed to stop your smart speaker from overhearing you until you tell the Paranoid device you want it to.

This results in a slightly longer wakeup phrase eg “Paranoid OK Google,” “Paranoid Alexa,” but significantly less chance of the device kicking on and recording you while you’re discussing your private dealings.

The Paranoid Home devices come in three flavors. One that pushes a mute button, one that makes warbly noise that messes with microphones but is supposedly hard for a human to hear, and one that is a microphone replacement where you ship your device and they snip the wires and send it back.

None of the options are connected to the internet, or WiFi, so chances of a full blown IoT hacking event to get at listening to you are pretty low.

^ From the press release ^

I guess the questions I have on this product then are assuming that the network is compromised, and your smart speaker is taken over:

  • Do the mute buttons physically disconnect the audio when pressed on Home and Alexa devices?
  • Does the interfering mic jam block all audio or just distort it enough to not hear with certainty? I mean could you hear a conversation, just not a great one?
  • If the paranoid unit loses power is there any indication?
  • Can you train it to the way you happen to say “Paranoid”?
  • Is there an attack vector into the USB-powered Paranoid devices from a compromised Home or Alexa device? EG does Paranoid have the ability to update via USB / can it be disabled via that?
  • Software is listed (in a press release I have,) as being updated via playing a music file from any mobile phone or tablet. What protections are there to prevent a third party from walking into your house saying “paranoid play hacker beats” and having the thing reprogrammed. Alternately standing at your window, connecting to your speaker via bluetooth, and playing media to disable the device.
  • Will it mess up my kid’s interactive stories which ask them to say things like “no, go right!” ?
  • How long does Paranoid stay off when you’ve asked it to wake up a speaker?

Interesting devices with patents claimed pending, although on what I am wondering – the wakeword interception’s been done with the Google Home Brain Slug, plenty of button-pushing devices both connected and not, be interesting to see a bit more info here.

I’ve asked the PR company if they have any review units to ship ’em over so I can play with it.

You can find the product at Paranoid Home

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts