A few years ago, voice-controlled assistants were introduced and since then, it has been a course of worry to security experts as it poses a privacy threat to systems like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, making them prone to hacking.
However, no one thought about the risk presented by laser technology.
On Monday, Researchers at the University of Michigan and in Japan claimed to be able to hack Apple’s Siri, Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa devices using flashlights and laser pointers. According to them, this can be done by aiming at the device’s microphone from over a hundred feet.
They had demonstrated this in various cases; they used a laser beam to open a garage door by pointing at a voice assistant connected to it. In another case, they used a telephoto lens to hijacked a voice assistant at over 350 feet by pointing their lasers to it.
With this innovation, the researchers claim to be able to make purchases online, operate light switches and unlock a smart lock protected door. Unlocking and starting a car connected to a voice assistant is also possible.
University of Michigan’s Response
Speaking on this matter, a professor at the University of Michigan Mr. Kevin Fu said: “This opens up an entirely new class of vulnerabilities, It’s difficult to know how many products are affected because this is so basic.”
It took about seven months for the researchers to study the light flaw in these devices after which their findings were released. According to them, redesigning microphones is the only way to remove the flaw.
However, this is not the first time that digital assistants have been at risk of being hacked. Some time ago, research in the US and China proved that they can send hidden audio commands which can not be heard by any human.
So many devices with internet connection are to be introduced into the tech market so, the researchers are using this discovery as a means of reminding customers about the importance of security.
A spokeswoman at Amazon stated that this is the first time the company is hearing of the ability to hack using laser technology and that customers should not panic as there are some simple safety measures they can implement. Some of these measures include disconnecting their microphones using the mute button and activating voice PIN security for smart-home requests like Alexa shopping.
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