As if people needed any more of an excuse to feel paranoid online, new research has suggested that hackers could soon be eavesdropping on our every conversation via our very own headphones.
It’s all because of a type of software called SPEAKE(a)R, which academics from the Ben Gurion University are warning could turn earphones and even some types of loudspeakers into listening devices capable of gleaning private information from the users.
According to the research paper, entitled SPEAKE(a)R: Turn Speakers to Microphones for Fun and Profit, the technology could allow eavesdropping from a pair of headphones several metres away from the audible source.
“This is the reason people like Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg tape up their mic and webcam,” lead researcher Mordechai Guri explained.
“You might tape the mic, but would be unlikely to tape the headphones or speakers.”
“This is the reason people like Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg tape up their mic and webcam.”
It’s all down to the way audio chipsets are designed in modern motherboards.
In more modern designs, users are given the option of changing the use of an audio port, via software, from something like a speaker to a microphone.
This therefore presents an opportunity for manipulation with nefarious plans in mind.
The Israelis study does offer some suggestions as to how best combat the problem though.
Firstly, disabling audio hardware is a good place to start while several HD audio drivers give the user the option to set up alerts in the event that the microphone is accessed.
Regardless of this, with any change in motherboard design unlikely to be pushed through in the next few months, it’s best to stay on your guard.