Gadgets that are activated by voice can perceive laser beams as commands from the owner.
Smart speakers are convenient, but at the same time unsafe. Such devices were repeatedly caught in the transmission of “overheard” to manufacturers. And now it turned out that you can hack smart speakers without words at all.
A team of scientists from the University of Michigan, led by cybersecurity specialist Takeshi Sugawara, has demonstrated how to transmit commands to smart gadgets using laser beams. If you tune the laser to a specific frequency and direct the radiation directly to the device’s microphone, the speaker can interpret this radiation as a human voice.
Researchers tested their method on Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Facebook Portal Mini devices, as well as on some smartphones running iOS and Android. Scientists have tested a 60 milliwatt laser in a total of 16 devices that are activated by voice. Almost all smart speakers reacted to the laser from a distance of up to 50 meters. With smartphones, everything turned out to be a little more complicated: for example, the iPhone XR reacted to commands with a laser from a distance of no more than 10.5 meters, and the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Google Pixel 2 - only from five meters.
The video, which the experimental team posted on YouTube, shows how the Google Home column, responding to "light commands", opens the garage door and tells the exact time. Researchers claim that attackers can take advantage of this method, although this is not very simple. Firstly, the device should be on the line of sight for cyber burglars, so even the curtains drawn in will break all plans for them. Secondly, to assemble the equipment for hacking a smart speaker or voice assistant on a smartphone, you will need a lot of electronic components (totaling about $ 500) and some technical knowledge.
In an article published in the Wired publication, scientists propose smart speaker manufacturers to introduce additional security features for such devices to protect them from laser hacking: for example, add another microphone or install a special light filter. Google and Amazon have already reacted to the publication: company representatives said they would carefully study the work of researchers from the University of Michigan. Apple has officially declined to comment, while Facebook representatives remain silent.
Amazon previously developed smart bins that can order goods online by analyzing discarded rubbish, and US doctors introduced smart syringes for precise injection.