Don’t let the cybercriminals know about this, because they are used to always going one step further in their desire to be able to get hold of what does not belong to them, and they will certainly be interested in this recent discovery that allows them to control devices such as smartphones through intelligent voice assistants, without their owners knowing.
Recent research has shown that a simple device that emits a certain type of vibration can control a smartphone’s assistant to access its private data.
SurfingAttack is what a team of researchers from Michigan State University with the help of academies in China, Nebraska and Washington have decided to call the attack. In a recently published study, they explain how smartphone assistants can be effectively controlled with the help of ultrasound that is imperceptible to the human ear.
The following video provides a clear demonstration of this:
Don’t let the cybercriminals know
While this technique has been used in the past, what is new this time is the process used to falsify the information received by voice assistants.
On this occasion, instead of emitting the ultrasounds directly from a speaker, the researchers placed special hardware under a table to emit certain vibrations on the surface. These vibrations are ultimately sound, and even if we don’t hear them, microphones on cell phones and other smart devices do.
The ultrasonic vibrations emitted by this device (which can be obtained for about 6 dollars) generate sounds that can be determined orders to activate the mobile phone assistant and ask you from making calls to third parties, to obtain or send photographs and messages. This is especially dangerous if, for example, we think of a situation where the attacker seeks to obtain a confirmation code to initiate a session that has just arrived by SMS.
Researchers explain that the piece that is placed on a surface can be more or less effective depending on how well the material on which the device is placed conducts vibrations. A wooden table seems to be enough to control the phone through these vibrations but if it is a solid aluminium surface the imperceptible vibrations can reach more than 9 meters.
And how to avoid this?
Something as simple as changing the settings of the assistant so that it is not activated by voice commands and can only be activated by a button or a certain action is enough (for now) to override this type of attack.
The other option is that the phone is placed on a surface that absorbs vibrations. Having the phone inside a good silicone case helps to avoid this kind of problem. Or finally, there is the option of using a bracelet specifically designed to disable these attacks.
The only thing that is certain is that if all that ingenuity that is used to swindle other people were used for the benefit of humanity, surely many things would improve on this planet.