Gossiping Revealed As The UK’s Dirtiest Little Secret

Research from McAfee reveals what Britons don’t want anyone to know what they say behind closed doors, highlighting the importance of protecting data – verbal or otherwise

  • 32% of Brits admit that gossiping is the one thing they wouldn’t want anyone to overhear, including their digital assistant
  • Two-fifths (40%) of people in the UK have considered their new digital assistants could be listening to them
  • 46% of Brits admit to being embarrassed if their friends or family knew what questions they asked their digital assistants
  • 23% of people have heard their neighbours doing something they probably wouldn’t want them to hear
  • 26% of Brits ask their digital assistant questions they wouldn’t want anyone to know

It’s official, Brits are notorious, but secret, gossipers with over a third admitting they would be devastated if their friends, family, neighbours and even digital assistants were to inadvertently hear what they were saying in the privacy of their own homes.

This is according to the latest findings from a McAfee commissioned survey on attitudes towards voice-controlled digital assistants and what people want to keep private, which shows over two-fifths (40%) of Brits have considered their new digital assistants could be listening in to them with over a third (37%) tailoring the way they speak in front of the devices at times.

Don’t tell the neighbours!

The survey found that Brits clearly don’t want anyone, or anything, overhearing certain things when at home. According to the research, nearly a quarter (23.7%) of people have heard the neighbours saying or doing things they probably wouldn’t want heard with a disquieting 63.9% of Brits admitting to having heard their neighbours fighting and 46% hearing sexual activity.

“The survey highlights the importance of protecting data – verbal or otherwise – in the home. As our survey shows, everyone loves a gossip, but people must be aware of who and what could be listening, and protect themselves accordingly,” says Raj Samani, McAfee Fellow, Chief Scientist from McAfee.

“The reality is that whenever you bring any kind of new connected device into the home, you need to make sure you enjoy using it in the safest and most private way. Our latest survey reveals that a high proportion of Brits have considered devices, as well as people, being able to ‘listen in’ to their private conversations – gossip clearly being one of them.

“At McAfee we recognise this concern, though we also want to encourage people to embrace new technologies that can make their lives easier, more productive and fun – which is ultimately what so much of this new, innovative technology is trying to help achieve. That’s why we recently announced the planned launch of the new McAfee Secure Home Platform skill for Amazon Alexa. This will give our McAfee Secure Home Platform customers the added convenience of simply and conveniently managing their home’s network security using their voice.”

“Does John fancy me?”

The research also demonstrated that some Brits are already developing quite personal relationships with their digital assistants – a quarter (26%) ask their digital assistant questions they wouldn’t want anyone to know, and nearly half of Brits (46.5%) said they would be embarrassed if their friends and family knew some of the questions they had asked their digital assistant. In fact, over one in twenty Brits, for example, have asked a digital assistant questions including: “when will I die?”, “how pretty am I?” and “does (name of crush) fancy me?”.

With this growing amount of personal and private information flowing to and from connected things in consumers’ homes, it’s imperative to protect what we can – and that is the devices brought into people’s. New devices like voice-controlled digital assistants, game consoles, home security systems, thermostats and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices must all be secured to avoid becoming a target for cybercriminals.

Top tips from McAfee to securely manage connected devices in the home:

  • Consider what Wi-Fi you are using.Using your neighbours free WiFimay save you some pennies but using open WiFis, can result in your data being at risk. This is true both at home and when you’re using a public WiFi. Use a virtual private network (VPN) whenever you are considering connecting to an unsecured WiFi to help keep your data private.
  • Vary your passwords. 25% of people have shared a password with a partner. Use difficult to crack passwords, ensure to keep passwords secure and update them in a regular basis. Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Simplify password management by using a password manager.
  • Invest in a router that delivers security for all your connected things.It’s important to secure your entire connected home network. And the launch of McAfee Secure Home Platform skill for Alexa is set to make this easier and more convenient than ever before.
About McAfee Labs
McAfee LabsMcAfee Labs is the threat research division of Intel Security and one of the world’s leading sources for threat research, threat intelligence, and cybersecurity thought leadership. The McAfee Labs team of more than 400 researchers collects threat data from millions of sensors across key threat vectors—file, web, message, and network. It then performs cross-vector threat correlation analysis and delivers real-time threat intelligence to tightly integrated McAfee endpoint, content, and network security products through its cloud-based McAfee Global Threat Intelligence service. McAfee Labs also develops core threat detection technologies—such as application profiling, and graylist management—that are incorporated into the broadest security product portfolio in the industry.