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Virtual assistants have seen an increased usage in the workplace, improving general productivity, but not without placing organizations at considerable risk if left unchecked. Depending on how much you rely on virtual assistants, you might want to take a closer look at what data is being accessed by them, and the role they play in your organization.
Some of the most common virtual assistants include Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa. You may have seen these voice-activated apps in your devices, even if you don’t use them.
These devices have improved in functionality, and while these functionalities are well-suited to the workplace, always-on microphones make some users suspicious about their use. After all, it’s incredibly difficult to tell what a microphone is listening to and how sensitive the data being accessed is. If you’re not careful, the data could be sent to a third party simply by being spoken in front of a listening device.
This creates a complication for anyone hoping to get things done with a personal assistant application. Everyone who considers using them must ask themselves if the risks are worth the benefits. Here are a few topics to consider before implementing personal assistants.
Is It Just Another Internet of Things Device?
The risks involved with Internet of Things devices are well-known to most business professionals. For example, the Mirai botnet was capable of enslaving Internet of Things devices and using them to fuel attacks against its targets. It might be difficult to remember that these virtual assistants are nothing more than applications on Internet-connected devices, meaning that they are certainly at risk of being compromised by similar threats.
If you keep in mind that these devices are always listening, however, it becomes easier to create policies regarding the potential security risk that they may pose. For example, if your office is in a place where sensitive information is often spoken out loud, a virtual assistant is something you should try to keep away from that location. Furthermore, it’s very important that you don’t put your wireless network at risk.
Whose Devices Are They?
Data privacy and ownership is a huge deal in the business environment, and this could complicate the situations you face with virtual assistants. Imagine a scenario in which an employee brings a virtual assistant to the workplace; while the company isn’t spending as much on the device itself, the device might be outside the control of the business in regard to security and privacy. The question of how you enforce data privacy on devices outside of your control becomes a central issue.
Policies Are Your Greatest Asset
To keep your organization safe while still using virtual assistants, you need to establish firm control over what you can. This means that you should operate under the assumption that your devices are always listening to what you have to say and adopt a policy that these assistants should be kept out of areas where sensitive information is discussed. You need to spread this awareness to others in the workplace, and any device with a microphone should be treated with at least a little bit of scrutiny. Phones can possibly be hacked, and laptops could have monitoring software installed on them without the user’s knowledge.
KT Connections can help your organization ensure that the various aspects of security don’t hold your business back. To learn more, reach out to us at 605-341-3873.
Rodd Ahrenstorff is the Director of Business Operations for KT Connections, as well as a member of the company’s ownership team starting in 2014. Rodd has been working in the computer and telecommunication fields for over twenty years—a term during which he has held a number of leadership positions. In the past, he has served as a broadcast television engineer, an systems architect, and most recently Director of Information Technology, including a role as a HIPAA Security Officer for behavioral health and multi-specialty medical providers.