Hackers can surprisingly access Amazon’s Alexa, iPhone’s Siri and Google Home without even using sound. The invasion amazingly happens with the use of a laser pointer.
A research published on Monday revealed that hackers can now invade Alexa, Siri and Google Home using a laser pointer. The research was spearheaded by the University of Michigan and the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo.
How It Works
The researchers discovered that the microphones found in Amazon’s Alexa, iPhone’s Siri and Google Assistant all respond to light the same way they respond to sounds. As microphones on these smart devices transmit commands by converting sounds into electrical signals, a laser pointed directly to the microphones is likewise transformed and turned into electrical signals.
Researchers blame the bug of the unintentional response of the microphone to light as though it was sound to the “semantic gap between the physics and specification of MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems).”
How Can Hackers Take Advantage of the Bug?
As voice-controlled devices such as Amazon’s Alexa, iPhone’s Siri and Google Home do not require authentication upon responding to a command, hackers may take advantage of using the laser to gain full control of the smart devices. This means full control of the device at a relatively low price.
Upon gaining access to the control of the smart device, hackers can manipulate the devices in various ways. The manipulation can go from the simple turning the volume to zero, turning on the do not disturb settings, opening a garage door without a PIN up to the complicated access to credit cards and e-commerce accounts. Even the medical devices linked to the user’s voice-controlled assistants are not exempted.
How Can Alexa, Siri and Google Home Be Protected?
Since hackers simply need to point the laser toward the direction of the voice commanded device regardless of the distance, keeping Alexa, Siri and Google away from windows and from areas where the laser could reach might help.
Amazon customers may keep their Alexa protected by enabling a PIN. Another option is through activating the mute button to disable the microphone, as discussed by an Amazon spokeswoman.
Other companies, on the other hand, see that redesigning the microphone could be the best option to keep hackers from using lasers to gain control over Alexa, Siri and Google Home.
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