FRANCE- A new hack has been released by a security researching group under the French government, that allows users to control Siri and Google Now remotely.
According to a recent report from Wired, a team of researchers working for the French government agency, ANSSI, which handles computer security, and was published by IEEE, have discovered a rather interesting hack.
Their names are José Lopes Esteves and Chaouki Kasmi and they found out a way of taking remote control of your smartphone. The method is brilliant in theory, but comes with a few limitations, such as the distance, which needs to be short, while it also requires the target to have a pair of earphones with an embodied microphone plugged into their phone.
The hack that the two researchers discovered is based on the fact that a headphone cord can double up as a makeshift antenna, with hackers sending electromagnetic signals to the wire which are converted into audio input. The target device then interprets these as regular voice commands.
In the report the two researchers mention:
“The possibility of inducing parasitic signals on the audio front-end of voice-command-capable devices could raise critical security impacts. Moreover, Vincent Strubel, the director of the ANSSI research group which discovered the hack, said to Wired: “[…] the sky is the limit here.” He then gave an example where the hackers used this method in a crowded area such as a bar or an airport and added: “Sending out some electromagnetic waves could cause a lot of smartphones to call a paid number and generate cash.”
So while it may not seem that dangerous, the fact that someone can remotely control your smartphone’s virtual assistant and the general method that is being used, along with the result, could have some really damaging effects for the victim.
However, for now, this technique comes with some substantial drawbacks. Besides the ones mentioned above, regarding the distance and the headphones, the target phone also needs to have enabled the voice commands on the lock screen, so users have a good chance of noticing that there is something wrong with their phones.
It sure is expected that this method will be further developed and applied under more complicated circumstances. But until then, if you want to be perfectly safe, just make sure to unplug your earphones and in extreme cases, like crowded areas where you start getting suspicious, consider turning off your phone’s voice commands.