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Researchers show how sound waves can take control of electronic devices such as smartphones

By midian182 ยท 4 replies
Mar 15, 2017
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  1. There are a huge number of ways hackers can compromise electronic devices, and new methods of attack are being discovered all the time. The latest involves using sound waves to control items such as phones, Fitbits, and smartwatches.

    Researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of South Carolina described in their paper how they could spoof capacitive micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) accelerometers, which let a device know when they’re moving and how quickly, by using simple acoustics.

    Through a $5 speaker, the team hit 20 accelerometer models from five manufacturers with sound waves from music files. They affected the information or output from 75 percent of the devices tested and were able to control 65 percent of them, reports the New York Times.

    The sound waves move the accelerometer sensor, which is suspended on springs, in such a way that the device thinks it is in motion.

    “It’s like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass, only in our case, we can spell out words [and send commands to a smartphone]” said Kevin Fu, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Michigan. “You can think of it as a musical virus.”

    Being able to add extra steps to a Fitbit or taking control of a smartphone that’s steering a remote control car may not sound very threatening, but these kind of accelerometers are used in some cars, drones, and planes. The Times mentions how the technique could theoretically be used to affect accelerometers in insulin pumps to administer the wrong dose, or to take control of self-driving cars.

    “Thousands of everyday devices already contain tiny MEMS accelerometers,” Fu added. “Tomorrow’s devices will aggressively rely on sensors to make automated decisions with kinetic consequences.”

    It may only be a proof of concept, but the Department of Homeland Security is taking the vulnerability seriously. The agency issued an alert yesterday over the “hardware design flaws” in some MEMS accelerometer sensors.

    Permalink to story.

     
  2. MoeJoe

    MoeJoe TS Guru Posts: 596   +310

    Really?

    L M A O
     
  3. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,439   +807

    So audio frequencies can mess with senors on devices. Interesting, but not quite sonic screw driver. Sorry Doctor Who fans. Also, the special visual effects in the video were annoying.
     
    Reehahs likes this.
  4. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,279   +517

    I can hardly wait until the first Law and Order episode comes out with the victim dying from a phone call :) The call contains certain sound waves that kills his pacemaker... pretty awesome way to be murdered....
     
    p51d007 and lostinlodos like this.
  5. havok585

    havok585 TS Booster Posts: 139   +25

    Imagine when these things have actually happened IRL by secret entities already ;)
     

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