© naftemporiki.gr Research: Deception of advanced “smart” digital assistants through silent ultrasound commands
Advanced digital voice-controlled helpers, who have developed companies such as Amazon, Apple and Google, can be “misled” by commands sent by ultrasound, which people are unable to hear, according to a research by scientists in China and the US.
As the BBC reported, the researchers said that the tested digital assistants responded to high-frequency commands -which can be heard by dolphins, but not humans- resulting in the paper of Zhejiang University’s scientists to be named “Dolphin Attack: Inaudible Voice Commands”. Researchers were able to make smartphones to call numbers of their choice and visit “suspicious websites”.
For its part, Google told the BBC that these allegations are being investigated, and Amazon -according to its announcement- is also testing the controversial investigation.
Many modern smartphones have digital assistants who receive voice commands that are triggered when they hear a specific phrase (“wake words” – ok Google for Google, hey Siri for Apple, Alexa for Amazon).
Researchers in China emitted voice commands via a speaker that was set-up to operate at ultrasound frequencies. As they said, they were able to activate their assistants on a range of Apple and Android devices, as well as “smart” speakers, from a distance of meters.
For its part, a team of researchers at Princeton University was also able to activate the “smart” Amazon Echo speaker in the same way. According to US researchers, this attack was effective because the “target” worked out the sounds and conceived them as a human speech.
Chinese researchers suggest that someone could hide ultrasound messages in online videos, or broadcast them in public places near the victim/target. During the tests it was possible to make phone calls and visits to websites, take pictures and activate the flight mode.
However -as noted in the BBC report- this mode of attack would not work on systems that have been “trained” to respond to only one person’s voice – a feature that Google offers to its own digital assistant. Also, Apple’s Siri requires the user to unlock the phone before allowing any “sensitive” activity – such as visiting a web site. Apple and Google have the ability to disable wake words so their digital assistants can not be turned on without permission.
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