Hackers Can Easily Spy On You With Your Headphones

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel have confirmed that hackers can spy on you via your headphones, reports WIRED. According to them, they have developed a new code that proves it is possible for hackers to re-purpose headphones into makeshift microphones and use them to secretly record conversations even when a microphone is turned off or disabled.

“People don’t think about this privacy vulnerability,” said Mordechai Guri, the research lead of Ben Gurion’s cyber security research labs, speaking to WIRED. “Even if you remove your computer’s microphone, if you use headphones you can be recorded.”

The method works through a particular malware which repurposes a speakers’ earbuds into a microphone, “converting the vibrations in air into electromagnetic signals to clearly capture audio from across a room,” reports WIRED.

The researchers’ malware, called ‘Speake(a)r’ does the same thing, but through software. RealTek chips are incredibly common, featuring in more laptops, across various operating systems, and in many homes.

“This is the real vulnerability,” said Guri. “It’s what makes almost every computer today vulnerable to this type of attack.” WIRED explains:

“Their malware uses a little-known feature of RealTek audio codec chips to silently “retask” the computer’s output channel as an input channel, allowing the malware to record audio even when the headphones remain connected into an output-only jack and don’t even have a microphone channel on their plug. The researchers say the RealTek chips are so common that the attack works on practically any desktop computer, whether it runs Windows or MacOS, and most laptops, too.”

The researchers at Ben Gurion were able to record sound from as far as 20 feet away with a pair of Sennheiser headphones. Apparently, the recording was still distinguishable even when the compressing of the recording was send over the internet.

Ironically, RealTek chips are mostly available in many desktop computers and laptops. Since the malware instead of vulnerability uses a feature of the chip, there’s no way to patch and fix it. Therefore, the best way to fix this is to unplug your earphones to start off with. Also, taping over your ports and cameras could help.

Source: WIRED

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