Residually conventional laser pointers have become a new tool for hacking phones, tablets and other household smart devices using voice control technology. From a distance measured in tens or even hundreds of meters, lasers are able to command devices to open doors, make purchases on the Internet, and take other actions that will benefit attackers in one way or another.
Together, scientists from Tokyo and Michigan universities showed that almost all of the devices on the market that use the voice technologies Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa are vulnerable. These devices can be “tricked” by focusing the laser pointer light on the area immediately adjacent to the microphone location in this device.
Using a laser pointer, researchers were able to force the following devices to execute commands – Google Home / Nest, Echo Plus / Show / Dot, Facebook Portal Mini, Fire Cube TV, EchoBee 4, iPhone XR, iPad 6th Gen, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Google Pixel 2. Moreover, they immediately notified Tesla, Ford, Amazon, Apple and Google about this vulnerability, proposing to use a special protective anti-laser film to solve this problem. However, the film coating does not provide absolute protection, but it reduces the effective distance of a possible hacking to 3-20 meters, which can significantly complicate the life of potential attackers.
In their work, which was the result of seven months of research and experimentation, scientists showed that laser pointers, whose beam is focused on a target with a telephoto lens, are able to effectively crack devices from a distance of 60 to 100 meters. As a demonstration of the “laser hacking” method, the Google Home system was hacked, which, using the appropriate modulation of laser light, was transmitted the voice command “OK Google, open the garage door.” The burglars, along with the necessary equipment, were on the roof of the neighboring building, and the presence of a little tinted glass in the windows of the room could not prevent their “black business”.
In exactly the same way, you can make smart devices make online purchases, open the doors of rooms that are locked by smart locks, unlock the doors of the car and perform a number of other actions.
And in conclusion, it should be noted that the laser is not the first and, possibly, not the last tool to crack digital voice-controlled devices. Not so long ago, researchers from a Chinese university showed that such devices can be controlled by transmitting commands to them using ultrasonic waves that are inaudible to human hearing. And researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have found yet another way to hack smart devices by sending them hidden voice commands that are completely hidden from human perception in a recording of music or speech.