The Puppet and its Puppeteer: “Helpful” Smart Devices turn Sinister

In the world of technology, digitalization is becoming more prominent. It is thus very common to see smart devices installed in people’s homes. From smart speakers and cameras, to door locks and even lighting, technology is everywhere.

You see, hear, and touch technology everyday, day in and day out. I mean, I am sure 99% of you readers will use your phone right before you sleep at night, and first thing in the morning.

But let me ask you this: Won’t it be nice to be able to control your smart door locks, speakers, air conditioners, etc. all from your smartphone? (That’s the lazy people talk)

The answer is simple…YES!

Yet with digitalization comes more advanced technology, and more ways to hack into one’s device.  Digitalization is hence taking a sinister turn in the misuse of smart devices. In fact, the New York Times has reported cases of victims of domestic abuse being targeted by smart devices installed in their homes! Imagine that! Your every move could potentially be tracked!


Harassment is the Word

So you have installed a smart speaker, smart air conditioner, and smart camera inside your house. But what if, all these smart devices were controlled by someone else…someone outside your house?!

Cambridge Dictionary defines “harassment” as “behavior that annoys or upsets someone”.

Smart speakers like Apple’s HomePod can be remotely accessed by someone with the username and password and made to sound alarms at random times. Air conditioners can also be switched on randomly and set to make a house extremely hot or cold. Cameras can be controlled remotely to spy on the occupants of a house.

I mean, imagine living in a house where everything is controlled by a puppeteer. It will probably drive you crazy!

The bottom line is this, if all your smart devices in your house are connected together, that may not necessarily be a good thing!

According to the Times, this phenomenon of harassment through smart devices is becoming more common. One victim reported that the combination of the digital lock of her front door changes each day, and another says that her front doorbell kept ringing with nobody being there.

So while smartphones, cameras and social media have broken down barriers to communication, they’re also erasing the physical distance between abusers and their targets, allowing them track and torment their victims in terrifying new ways.


I Spy with my Phone Eyes

In a relationship, there are always 4 people – you, your partner, your phone, and your partner’s phone.

Yet, did you know that your smartphone could be used as a weapon against you?

The truth is this: People get very brave when they’re miles away from someone and behind a keyboard and screen. That’s when the threats and manipulation really come into play.

I mean, nowadays, it is becoming more common for one’s partner to illegitimately monitor and spy on the other through their very phone!

Spying apps can be installed on a “target’s” phone to record location, call logs and other information. The Times reported that more than 10,000 women in the United Kingdom are being spied on in this way.

And don’t think this is just in cases of domestic violence! Any relationship that lacks trust between the 2 parties is prone to such spying tactics. In fact, these apps are being marketed for the purpose of “catching cheating spouses”!

Yet, you don’t even need a sophisticated and complicated app to track your partner. Services like “Find my iPhone” are being used when partners have access to the username and password of their victim’s Apple ID. Account details of a number of services can allow someone to access e-mail, messages, photos, social media, and other information of their victim.

Long story short? Basically, do not share your Apple ID username and passwords with anyone, not even your partner!


Becoming the Puppeteer himself/herself

So if you are a victim of a puppeteer, what you have to do is obviously become the puppeteer himself or herself!

However, protecting one’s self from spying or harassment through smart devices is actually not that straightforward. The problem is that the abuser who is doing the spying or harassment often has or had easy access to your devices and account details. This abuser could be your partner, or even your ex-partners.

The most important first step is regaining control of online accounts.

This means changing passwords, or even creating new accounts in the case that these used to be shared. Adding two-factor authentication would certainly help a great deal as this makes it very much harder for anyone else to access the account. This is particularly important with all accounts linked to smart devices such as speakers, door locks and smoke alarms.

Next, you have to make sure your mobile phones, tablets and computers are free from spyware. However, this is a little harder, especially for non-technical users.

The best way to do this is to pay for someone to do this but if that is not possible then resetting the device and reinstalling from scratch is the best option. Updating devices to the latest version of their software can help remove tampering and installed software, as can wiping the device and restoring from a backup. There is also anti-spyware software applications that may detect common examples of spyware and help in removing them.

In all situations, no matter what the relationship, separate accounts that each person is responsible for is a better way of maintaining individual privacy and independence. Being security and privacy conscious helps avoid problems later on, whether they come from unknown criminals or former partners.


In the Workplace

So you may think that this only applies to a house? But what about your office? Let me just say that they are similar! As long as you have smart devices lying around your office, you might be prone to becoming a victim of domestic abuse or even potential hackers!

The best solution for you is to hence ensure that you have a robust IT Security Solution in place.


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