Radio waves can be used to silently control Google Now, Siri from up to 16 feet away

By Shawn Knight
Oct 15, 2015
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  1. A group of researchers from ANSSI, a French government agency that focuses on information security, have demonstrated the ability to silently control Google Now and Siri from up to 16 feet away using radio waves.

    The nature of the attack requires that a pair of headphones be plugged into the target device to act as an antenna.

    As Wired explains, a hacker could command Apple and Google’s digital assistants to perform a myriad of tasks including placing a call to the hacker’s phone for eavesdropping purposes, placing a call to a paid number to generate money for the attacker, navigating the web browser to a malware-laden website and even send spam or phishing messages via e-mail or on social networks.

    The worst part of it all is the fact that the target device’s owner would never be the wiser.

    In its most compact form, the hardware necessary for the hack – a notebook running open-source software GNU Radio, a USRP software-defined radio, an antenna and an amplifier – could fit inside a backpack and give the attacker a range of roughly six and a half feet. To reach distances of 16 feet, something like a vehicle would be needed to house the larger hardware.

    Again, the attack only works if the target device has a set of microphone-enabled headphones plugged in. Said device must also have its voice assistant enabled from the lock screen.

    The researchers said they’ve contacted both Apple and Google regarding the vulnerability and offered solutions on how to combat the attack. For now, however, the best course of action for paranoid smartphone owners is to simply disable voice commands from the lock screen.

    Image courtesy Jose Lopes Esteves

    Permalink to story.

  2. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 6,505   +2,055

    The users should have the ability to disable these voice assistants altogether if they wish. I would love to be able to disable, even uninstall Gooble Now and Cortina.
    stewi0001 likes this.
  3. Zenodroid

    Zenodroid TS Booster Posts: 134   +27

    That is a big lie! apple is the best and never does anything wrong! apple never ever ever does bad stuff or mistakes!

    right, apple fans ? ;)
  4. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,608   +295

  5. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,555   +2,361

    Apple products only fail in instances of user error. In this case, only morons who don't run away from radio-wielding shady people wearing fedoras and trench coasts.

    Read my words: Apple products are without fault. The customer is the problem.
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,556   +2,899

    Yep we are at fault thinking someone else (not just Apple) might actually have our best interest at heart.
  7. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,555   +2,361

    Exactly. It's a dog eat dog world out there and nobody is going to look out for you. Especially not your cat.
    mailpup likes this.
  8. Capaill

    Capaill TS Addict Posts: 291   +93

    "For now, however, the best course of action for paranoid smartphone owners is to simply disable voice commands from the lock screen."

    Or don't plug in headphones.
    Or use bluetooth headphones.

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