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Lasers Able to Hack Voice Activated Devices


Lasers Able to Hack Voice Activated Devices

In what might be the weirdest hack I’ve ever heard of, researchers at the University of Michigan and Japan’s University of Electro-Communications have discovered that the miniaturized speech circuitry that powers a majority of voice-activated systems can be hacked using lasers!

You may know that microphones work by detecting sound vibrations on miniature diaphrams and then converting those vibrations into electronically coded signals which are then transmitted to a destination and finally decoded back into sounds.

I can’t imagine why someone thought a light beam might be able to cause vibrations inside a microphone, but it turns out it is possible.  Now, researchers have been able to create beams of focused light of varying intensity which have the ability to mimic the effects that sounds have on the microphone.

This potentially allows hackers to silently send commands to voice assistant devices made by companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, and get them to respond to commands as if it were a human were speaking them.  As long as the hacker has line-of-sight access to the voice assistant device, it can be commandeered.  In some cases, researchers were able to successfully hack certain devices from distances of over 300 feet and this process can even work through windows.

In my opinion I would recommend that if you are using a voice assistant device in a secure environment, you should limit its ability to control sensitive equipment, and keep it far away from windows.  In addition, if you own a device that can be customized to your own voice, this might be a good time to reprogram it and teach it to ignore anyone else but you.

Jack Eisenberg is the owner of Safe and Secure Computing and regularly contributes computer security related articles.  

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