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Amazon Echo glitch causes accidental online orders

10 January 2017 - 09:35 by Mike Price

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The Amazon Echo has become a popular smart home product since its launch last year, offering users unfettered access to the Alexa personal assistant service. But while the voice-controlled device makes it quick and simple to carry out shopping online, get weather updates and generally manage daily life, it is not foolproof.

This was made clear in a recent incident in the US, in which a report on an issue with Alexa broadcast by a San Diego news channel actually activated Echos of those watching across the region and placed orders without the users’ consent, according to the Telegraph.

A journalist reporting on a story involving a young girl who was able to buy an item using her parents’ Echo caused this widespread problem, although critics have pointed out that Amazon itself should shoulder some of the blame for the way that Alexa operates.

By default, the device is set not only to respond to a variety of requests made by users but also to allow products to be purchased via safe shopping online. So unless this setting is disabled, even children can harness this service, which has the potential to cause some real problems.

Industry observers have suggested that this incident will be a wakeup call for any Amazon Echo owners to add a password to their device, so that Alexa can only be used to make purchases by those with the right to do so.

There have also been concerns about the other security implications of this device, since malicious third parties might also be able to use the voice controls to find out personal details about users if they manage to get access to the Echo.

This device is from an emerging market where it is clear that more work, development and awareness are needed.