How to Secure Your Alexa Device

Keep personal information stored with Alexa safe from hackers

A suite of Alexa-enabled devices

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Alexa-enabled devices are proliferating, in part because they're useful when your hands are full or you need to do something else. But as they keep appearing in homes, businesses, and everywhere else, people are beginning to worry about security. Here's how to manage your Alexa security.

General Alexa Security and Privacy

First, focus on the basics. Make sure your Amazon account, Wi-Fi network and other internet networks have strong, secure passwords hackers won't be able to easily guess. Regularly update the firmware of your router and other physical internet infrastructure to protect against exploits, too.

In terms of privacy, place your Alexa away from areas you'd rather it not potentially overhear conversations, such as bedrooms or bathrooms. Keep it in public areas, and when you're discussing something sensitive in these areas, disable the microphone by pressing the Mute button on top of the device.

You'll know an Echo device is muted when the ring is red, and with other devices, like the Sonos One, an LED under a microphone icon will be off.

To disable the camera on devices like the Echo Spot and the Echo Show, swipe down from the top of the screen and tap Settings > Device Options, then tap the Enable Camera toggle to off.

Choose Skills Carefully

Just like you shouldn't download apps to your phone without looking at what the app wants to get access to, you shouldn't download skills to Alexa you don't trust.

Unfortunately, Amazon, doesn't require developers to fully disclose what information a skill will access, instead including links to the developer's overall privacy policy and terms of use. While this can be useful for telling you what information a developer might access, there's no way to know for sure. So, if a skill needs to access data you don't want to share, leave it be.

For skills you've already downloaded, you can see what permissions they've accessed.

  1. Open your Alexa app and tap Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Skill Permissions.

    Settings, Alexa Privacy, Manage Skill Permissions buttons in Alexa app on iOSa
  2. You'll see a menu of permissions skills can request. Tap the permission and you'll see a list of skills that use it. Turn this permission off with the toggle to the right of the skill.

    Access Full Name permissions, Toggle off
  3. For any skills you no longer want to collect data, ask Alexa to disable them. For example, if you wanted to shut off Lyft, you would say "Alexa, disable Lyft."

Removing Amazon's Data Access From Alexa

The next step is to remove the ability of your Alexa device to send data. You do this from the same menu you check Alexa skill permissions on. Tap Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa and disable Use Voice Recordings To Help Develop New Features and Use Messages To Improve Transcriptions. This will limit what data and recordings your Alexa sends to Amazon directly.

Enabling a Voice PIN for Alexa

If you want to limit the ability of others in your household to buy items using their voice from Alexa, you can enable a voice PIN.

  1. Go to Settings > Alexa Account > Voice Purchasing.

  2. If you want to disable voice purchasing completely, turn off Purchase by voice.

    Alexa Account, Voice Purchasing, Purchase by voice toggle in Alexa Settings on iOS

    If you don't have 1-Click enabled on Amazon, voice purchasing won't function. Consider disabling 1-Click as well if you're concerned about unwanted purchases.

  3. Enable Voice Code and set a PIN.

    The PIN will be visible in the app's settings. Be sure your phone is secured and not physically accessible.

  4. Tap Kid Skills Purchasing and disable it, if you're concerned about children adding skills without your permission.

How to Delete Recordings From Your Alexa

Alexa offers two tools with recordings. One lets you delete the recording, but the other is just as important, as it lets you tell Alexa what to listen to and what not to. A little time spent refining this will limit false recordings and improve your privacy.

  1. Open your Alexa app, then select Settings > Alexa Account > History.

  2. This will open a menu with all the information Alexa has recorded. There's no delete-all function, so you'll need to delete each command individually. Tap on the little arrow to the right of the recording, then Delete Recording.

    History, downward arrow, Delete Recording button in Alexa Settings on iOS
  3. Before you delete the recording, answer the question "Did Alexa Do What You Want?" Tap Yes to train your Alexa to pay attention to these requests, or tap No to teach it to ignore those requests. This will help limit unnecessary recordings.

Changing Wake Words For Alexa

If you don't want your device to react to the word "Alexa," say "Alexa, change the wake word." You'll be able to choose from a list of wake words, depending on the device.

Changing the wake word shouldn't be considered a strong security feature. The list of words is widely accessible online and someone can simply go down the list until the device reacts.