Retail technology

X Scalper

By John Grimm, Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development, nCipher Security

Amazon Prime Day – “a two-day parade of epic deals” – is upon us. And more than half of Americans – and nearly 60% of UK residents – are planning on or considering buying a digital assistant during the event on 15th and 16th July.

Last year, nCipher research indicated that fewer than half of UK residents who did not yet own one planned to get one on Prime Day. So interest is clearly on the rise. But concerns could prevent some shoppers – who are increasingly moving to secure themselves, their applications and devices – from taking advantage of deals.

Most shoppers express concern about cybersecurity related to digital assistants

As our research shows, 59% of Americans have privacy concerns regarding the use of digital assistants. 51% fear their digital assistant is listening to them at all times, and 45% believe their information is being shared. 40% worry that their personal bank or credit card information may be compromised. And 28% think digital assistants will inform hackers of their whereabouts. Only 22% of Americans do not have any privacy concerns.

A third of Americans don’t use one. Of that group, 55% said they won’t use a digital assistant, and 28% of that group are worried about security. Many Americans who have jumped onboard believe the technology is eavesdropping on them. 35% think that their digital assistant listens and records them at all times.

They are spending more on connected devices but some fail to secure them

Despite such concerns, IDC forecasts that IoT spending will reach $745 billion this year, with the consumer sector among those leading the way. And our own research indicates that digital assistant users aren’t always vigilant when it comes to their use of the technology.

37% of American consumers leave the default settings in place when setting up their digital assistants. (The share of the UK survey group that does so is even higher, at 41%.) 24% of Americans leave their assistant in listening mode at all times, and 19% leave the default password in place.

Cybersecurity uncertainty continues, but more people are paying attention, taking action

Nearly a quarter of Americans are unsure about whether their digital assistant receives security updates automatically. Results for the UK survey group were nearly identical. But most people from both the US and UK groups in the nCipher survey, which included a total of more than 2,000 respondents, indicated that they actively take steps to secure their digital assistants and want assurance that connected devices come with security features.

Of the American group:

  • 81% said they create a stronger password when setting up their digital assistant

  • 63% said they apply advanced security settings when setting up their digital assistant

  • 60% said they are more likely to buy connected devices if the security features are labeled better.

The same share of the UK survey group said they would be more likely to a buy a connected device if the basic features were labeled better. There’s good news here, because the UK is gearing up to require IoT device makers to tell consumers how secure their products are.

Another positive development is that the share of UK residents who leave their device default settings in place dropped from 57% last year to 41% this year. That may be a result of the increase in data breaches, heightened consumer awareness in light of the European Union’s new GDPR regulation, and Amazon being the subject of an inquiry due to privacy concerns related to Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistant.

Basic best practices

While I’ve shared tips on digital assistant personal security hygiene before, they’re worth repeating – especially now that these devices are becoming more common in the workplace:

  • Above all, take the time to really understand how these devices work, and the type of data they’re recording and saving

  • Get your desired level of security and privacy by personalising your device security settings, and employing other security measures to complement them as necessary

  • Digital assistants should only be used in an environment where you are comfortable with the fact that they are listening to every single word that is said.

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