Smart devices could pose risks to your personal privacy

Customers look at iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus phones at an Apple Store in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
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These days we are more connected than ever. Smartphones, smart watches, even smart light switches. But how safe are these devices when it comes to your personal privacy?

"Remember that the thing about the Internet is that it connects everybody in the world to everyone else," says C. Matthew Curtin, founder of Interhack -- a local company that specializes in reducing cyber threats for individuals and businesses.

"It used to be that, if you live in a good neighborhood, you're relatively far away from the bad guys, and so on, then you don't have to worry about a lot of things," he says. "There is no such thing as a good neighborhood on the Internet."

Any device that's connected to the Internet provides an opportunity for hackers to access your personal information. It's important to remember that, when it comes to protecting your information online, a big part of that is personal responsibility.

"Your oven wants to be on the Internet," says Curtin. "And if you're not ok with the terms, where it says it's going to be collecting information and sending it back up to the vendor, it is 100% ok for you to say no."

When you use digital home assistants like Siri or Alexa, remember -- those devices are always listening.

"Do you want to record every sound that happens inside of your house, anywhere, any room?" Curtin warns. "That's probably not something you want either, but that might be something that the technology makes possible."

Curtin says it all comes down to what sort of risks you're willing to accept by using these smart devices. "We bought the thing. We put it into place. And we accepted the risk that went along with it, because we wanted the productivity gain or whatever the other thing was that motivated us to make the purchase," he says. "What else can happen? What can go wrong? And are you willing to accept that risk?"

Any device you connect to the Internet comes with terms of service. Curtin says to make sure you're familiar with those terms, and don't accept them if you're not comfortable doing so. He also recommends checking to see if each device has its own password, and to change them often.