Smart Speakers Vulnerable To Hacking By Flashlight

Holly Quan
November 05, 2019 - 2:19 pm
A selection of smart speakers and other devices.

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Privacy advocates already worry about the vulnerabilities in smart speakers, like Amazon's Alexa, Google Home or Apple's Siri.

Now, scientists have shown they can hack the devices using just a laser pointer or a flashlight.

By using light to replicate sound, scientists were able to activate the diaphragm in the device's microphones, tricking it into thinking its owner was talking to it.

Benjamin Cyr, a PhD student at the University of Michigan, said they could hack into a device from as far away as 350 feet.

“Some of the devices have very sensitive microphones that are placed in a way so that the light affects them stronger than others,” Cyr said. “So a few of the devices you can get up to 350 feet (away).”

Theoretically, mayhem could ensue. Thieves could enter through exploited garage doors or make purchases through the speaker's Amazon account. 

But Cyr said there is a way to prevent this from happening.

“Don’t put anything near a window,” he said, “Try to keep anything from being in the line of sight of outside where anyone may try to shoot it with a laser.”