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Hackers Can Turn Headphones Into Spies

Hackers Can Turn Headphones Into Spies

December 5, 2016

Homeland & Cyber Security

Forbes — Researchers from Ben-Gurion University have demonstrated proof-of-concept malware that can turn headphones and speakers — even if they aren’t in use — into microphones.

The malware takes advantage of a feature in the Realtek audio chip that is used in the vast majority of computers. The research team figured out how to surreptitiously flip the switch on these chips, turning an audio output device into an input device.


Mordechai Guri

In their testing, a pair of ordinary earbuds worked so well as a microphone that they were able to record clear audio of a man’s voice who was standing 20 feet away from the computer.

Lead researcher Mordechai Guri, head of research and development at the BGU Cyber Security Research Center, says that all laptops, desktops and tablets are theoretically vulnerable to the same “re-tasking” attack as long as they feature a Realtek chip.

In addition, Guri cautions that there is no easy software fix, as the ability to change a jack’s function from input to output is part of the core functionality of the audio chips.

However, simple steps like unplugging headphones or speakers when they are not in use can go a long way in keeping users safe from this hack.

Read more on the Forbes website >>