Paranoid consumers can stop smart speakers always listening

Smart speaker owners paranoid that their devices are listening in to conversations can now block them completely unless called for.

Aptly named Paranoid is a new security start-up in the US, which has unveiled three devices that ensures smart speakers are only listening when you require them to.

Although the companies behind many smart speakers insist they only listen when activated by their trigger phrases, there have been multiple cases that prove this isn’t always when false activation happen. 

To prevent this eavesdropping, Paranoid has developed three devices built around a small circuit board that physically blocks the audio reaching the smart speaker. Therefore, in order to use the smart speaker, users must activate the blocking device by saying “Paranoid” which then allows the speaker to hear user commands. 

Although it sounds as though the Paranoid device is doing the same thing as the smart speaker, Paranoid devices are completely self-contained and therefore does not connect to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, so nothing can be heard by anyone else. 

This also means the device cannot be hacked, providing extra security for the home, and something many smart speaker owners worry are concerned about. 

The three devices work differently designed for different smart speaker types. 

Home Button
The Home Button device is stuck onto the smart speaker and activates a USB-powered button-pusher that physically pushes a smart speaker’s mute button, and then re-engages it after the user has finished their command. This is only compatible on smart speakers with a physical mute button.

Home Wave
Home Wave takes a different approach in that it jams the microphone signals by discreetly generating noise and interference in close proximity to the smart speaker’s microphones. When the Paranoid wake word is detected, it temporarily stops the jamming to allow the smart speaker to listen and react to voice commands. 

The noise generated by Home Wave is not perceptible to the human ear so will not be an annoyance to homeowners.

Home Max

Finally, if the device does not have a mute button or users do not trust the mute button, Paranoid can install Home Max to internally configure the smart speaker. Perhaps the most secure way of assuring the speaker cannot listen, Paranoid technicians physically cut the microphone and bypass the signal to go through the Paranoid circuitry. 

All three devices will retail for $49 in the US but are currently available at an introductory price of $39. Shipping is currently only available in the US and Canada but other regions are likely to be included later this year. 

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