back to article Shine on: Boffins bedazzle Alexa and her voice-controlled assistant kin with silent laser-injected commands

Boffins affiliated with the University of Electro-Communications in Japan and America's University of Michigan have devised a way to use lasers to inject audio commands into mic-equipped devices. Thus you can wordlessly hijack someone's voice-controlled smart speaker, just by shining a laser onto its microphone. In a paper [ …

  1. Getmo

    Perhaps some fun could be had with your neighbor's devices.

    Then again, there always has been: https://xkcd.com/1807/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perhaps some fun could be had with your neighbor's devices.

      Beats setting fire to farts!

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps some fun could be had with your neighbor's devices.

        Years ago my kids had fun with our Sky remote by aiming it through our elderly neighbour's window and switching his box to a porn channel. He had been asleep in his armchair and it nearly caused a divorce when his wife entered the room and saw what he'd been "watching".

  2. Jan 0 Silver badge
    Devil

    It's been a long time coming

    This sounds like just the sort of device Philip K. Dick used to dream up.

    One moment you're tearing along a freeway, next your car turns off to force yo tou lunch at a restaurant you've never heard of or seen before, but you have a reservation!

    The assassin's distant laser command causes your shower to keep its door closed and slowly cook you to death.

  3. VTAMguy

    List of reasons avoid this thing entirely for the rest of your life gets longer and longer

    Added "laser injection attack" to my list of reasons I will never pay money to have a spying microphone installed in the most intimate spaces of my home. If you want to keep track, here's how to start your own list: take a piece of paper and number it 1 through 50 on the front. Then put numbers 51 through 100 on the back. Label this paper 'A' as there will be multiple pages. At some point, the reasons to avoid this thing will pile up so much you might want to consider a binder for them.

    Mitigations. Yeah, I got a mitigation for you. It uses a canvas sack, some lead weights, and a long pier into the ocean.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: List of reasons avoid this thing entirely for the rest of your life gets longer and longer

      Then what happens when (not if) a SWMBO insists on one? Would you consider that grounds for a breakup/divorce?

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: List of reasons avoid this thing entirely for the rest of your life gets longer and longer

        what happens when (not if) a SWMBO insists on one?

        I'd be looking at breaking it by interfering with the audio side of things so it can't understand whatever is said, agreeing with the smartspeaker when it asked; did you say "woolworth's style of spit"?

        Maybe use this laser trick, or some other hackey, to get it to say things which will have it quickly slung out the door. "Your arse must look big in that; I can hear it rustling from here". "Please stop scratching your bollocks".

      2. iron Silver badge

        Re: List of reasons avoid this thing entirely for the rest of your life gets longer and longer

        My partner would never suggest such a thing. She already knows that yes, I would consider it grounds for breakup.

        My former employer brought one of these devices into the office. No other member of the team wanted it and our usually talkative office became silent. As soon as he left for the day (he had a habit of working 6 - 2 for some reason) one of us would unplug it at which point things returned to normal. He complained about us unplugging it for a few mornings before realising he was fighting an unwinnable battle and took it home.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: List of reasons avoid this thing entirely for the rest of your life gets longer and longer

          Did he ever explain why he thought it might be useful for his staff? Or was it just one of those "hey, this might be fun" things with no business case whatsoever?

      3. Kane Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: List of reasons avoid this thing entirely for the rest of your life gets longer and longer

        "Then what happens when (not if) a SWMBO insists on one? Would you consider that grounds for a breakup/divorce?"

        We've already had this conversation at home, and I have made it very clear there will be none of these shenanigans in our house. No smart speakers, no Internet-of-shit devices, none of it. I explained all of the various reasons why (poorly implemented security, data harvesting, voice recording etc, etc). When visiting a friend who has an Amazon Self-Spying Device™, I did the XKCD thing, which I think opened her eyes to what is possible. Much fun was had that day, I can tell you.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: List of reasons avoid this thing entirely for the rest of your life gets longer and longer

      Did anyone threaten to inject a laser beam in any of your intimate spaces?

  4. iron Silver badge

    This is news?

    I've known about this for several years now and I'm pretty sure I originally read about it in these esteemed pages.

    1. NikNakk

      Re: This is news?

      Ars Technica and Wired published articles on this 9 months ago:

      https://www.wired.com/story/lasers-hack-amazon-echo-google-home/

      https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/11/researchers-hack-siri-alexa-and-google-home-by-shining-lasers-at-them/

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    modulating a voice...into...light amplitude changes

    Calling it a "challenge" in the article seems a bit of a stretch. That's been a done deal for many, many years now.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: seems a bit of a stretch.

      They were talking specifically about combining the light based voltage changes with the thermal diaphragm voltage changes being the challenge:

      "The scientists theorize that there's both a photoelectric effect on the ASIC and a photoacoustic effect on the diaphragm arising from laser-driven thermal changes that move the diaphragm. Given that behavior, the team faced the challenge ......"

  6. TRT Silver badge

    Mind you... it could be useful...

    If you were doing something really noisy, like vacuuming the front room, but still wanted to issue commands to your smart speaker to skip that really annoying track in your playlist. Yes... I can see the benefits of having a laser equipped shark.

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