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Radio broadcast hacks listeners' Amazon Echo devices

By Shawn Price   |   Updated March 16, 2016 at 7:08 AM

NEW YORK, March 16 (UPI) -- A National Public Radio show recently hacked the Amazon Echo units of listeners across the country, giving them false commands, like reseting their home thermostats.

NPR's Weekend Edition ran a segment earlier this month about the voice-activated assistant that can give users the news, weather and sports and control lights and thermostats. To activate the unit, simply say "Alexa." Some listeners whose Echo units were too close to their radios that day were surprised to find out how the voices on the program were setting off the Echo and wrote to the producers of the show telling them what had happened.

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"Listener Roy Hagar wrote in to say our story prompted his Alexa to reset his thermostat to 70 degrees," said host Rachel Martin, in an update of the story. "It was difficult for Jeff Finan to hear the story because his radio was right next to his Echo speaker, and when Alexa heard her name, she started playing an NPR News summary. Marc-Paul Lee said his unit started going crazy too and wrote in to tell us this – let's just say we both enjoyed the story."

The makers of the show decided to have some fun at that point.

"So Alexa, listen up," Martin said on air. "We want you to pledge to your local member station. You hear me? Lots and lots of money. Did you get that, Alexa?"

The device has become a hot commodity for gadget lovers and those who want "smart homes" where lights and thermostats and other things can be controlled by just a command. For tech lovers, it's become the better way to make their home "smart," rather than taking out their smartphone and pulling up the app to turn on the lights.

The thing gadget lovers are quickly learning however, is that Alexa is always listening.

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