Digital Assistants Like Siri Can Be Hacked Using Ultrasound Commands

Thursday, 07 September 2017 - 2:56PM
Technology
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Thursday, 07 September 2017 - 2:56PM
Digital Assistants Like Siri Can Be Hacked Using Ultrasound Commands
Image credit: Pixabay
While creepy at first, robotic assistants like Google Home and Alexa are becoming accepted as helpful, inanimate members of the household. They're not yet fully integrated or secretly evil like Hal 9000 (at least, we don't think they are), but this type of technology still has the potential to wreak havoc. In fact, hackers capable of transmitting sounds outside of the human range of hearing might be capable of hacking them.



Researchers Guoming Zhang and Chen Yan, alongside their team at Zhejiang University in China, have found that handheld and home assistants like Siri and Alexa can hear things that we can't. They even used ultrasound, which is silent to human ears, to successfully give commands to these devices. "If all a voice assistant could do was set an alarm, play some music or tell jokes, then there wouldn't be much of a security issue," remarked Tavish Vaidya of Georgetown University. But this is not the case—Siri and Alexa are just two examples of technologies that's connected to our phones and computers, which store just about all of our personal information. Everything from our finances to our medical records, personal communications, business records, and so much more could be at risk.

Soon, these devices could even be connected to our vehicles, which are already prone to hacking. While a terrifying prospect, this development gives manufacturers the incentive to remedy the issue: if devices and apps were corrected to only "listen" for sounds within the normal human speech range, then hackers would be back to square one. Hopefully, manufacturers and developers make these changes and Alexa doesn't start letting you know that she's afraid she can't do that.
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