Monday, 10 December, 2018

Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant can hear silent commands that you can't

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Doris Mccormick | 11 May, 2018, 22:11

There have been other (unfortunately successful) attempts to fool voice assistants, and there aren't a lot of ways to counter such audio from being broadcasted to target people's "smart" devices.

In one study conducted by Georgetown University and University of California, Berkeley in 2016, student researchers successfully hid secret voice commands with the help of white noise. However, this latest one is different because it could victimize even the most careful users, as the subliminal voice commands are undetectable to the human ear.

Researchers at China's Zhejiang University published a study a year ago that showed numerous most popular smart speakers and smartphones, equipped with digital assistants, could be easily tricked into being controlled by hackers.

According to the New York Times, researchers in both China and the USA have carried out a series of experiments which ultimately proved that it's possible to communicate silent commands that are undetectable to the human ear to voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant.

With this in mind, wrongdoers could potentially play music within "earshot" of a Google Home's microphone in order to command it to gain access through your smart door lock. However, he figures "that the malicious people already employ people to do" what he does.

The researchers claim they were even able to hide the command, "OK Google, browse to evil.com" in a recording of the spoken phrase "Without the data set, the article is useless".

The researchers have now demonstrated that automatic speech recognition, too, is vulnerable to such attacks.

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It was also able to embed the same command within a four second segment of Verdi's Requiem.

Amazon told The New York Times it has taken steps to ensure its speaker is secure.

Apple has additional security features to prevent the HomePod smart speaker from unlocking doors and requires users to provide extra authentication, such as unlocking their iPhone, in order to access sensitive data.

Similar techniques have been demonstrated using ultrasonic frequencies. "By making slight changes to audio files, researchers were able to cancel out the sound that the speech recognition system was supposed to hear and replace it with a sound that would be transcribed differently by machines while being almost undetectable to the human ear". The attack first muted the phone so the owner wouldnt hear the systems responses, either.

How device makers respond will differ, especially as they balance security easily of use.

"We want to demonstrate that its possible", he said, "and then hope that other people will say, ‘Okay, this is possible, now lets try and fix it".

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