2016 has shown us so far that virtually any electronic device can be turned against its owner if you know how to do it. After cyber security expert had shown that a $10 device could steal your personal data even after your computer is powered down, a team of computer scientists from the Ben Gurion University proved that your privacy could be invaded through an absolutely harmless device – your headphones.
The scientists working on the project create a set of hijacked earphones which can be used to eavesdrop on any unaware user. The device is so fine-tuned that it can pick up any conversation from 20 feet.
How does this work? The researchers declared that the experiment began with a normal pair of headphones outfitted with a microphone which is plugged into a computer. Using home-made malware code, the researchers were able to hijack the audio-jack retasking function.
What does this mean? Once the malware code is injected into your system, and you plug in your headphones, the code tricks the computer into believing that the headphone jack is actually the microphone jack.
Thus, with just one simple trick, anyone can turn a simple pair of headphones into a powerful spying device. To determine if this feat is achievable, the scientists tested the malware on a set of Sennheiser hijacked earphones.
According to the researchers, this trick only works with motherboard whose audio cards uses RealTek codecs. After a couple of seconds, the team could clearly hear what someone was discussing in the adjoining room.
Now, you might think that the software’s capabilities are limited but, according to the team, the eavesdropping’s quality is actually pretty good.
The team said that this type of privacy invasion approach is unique, and that the software they’ve created is not actually harmful. However, with this experiment they wanted to prove a point – that any device, no matter how insignificant it is, can be used to spy on you.
So, what can we do in order to counter this type of attack? The scientists said that the best solution to this problem is to unplug the headphones from the computer if we’re not using them. Furthermore, if you only use headphones for music, then it might be best to buy a pair that doesn’t have a microphone.
Another great tip is to update your sound software regularly.
Image source: Wikipedia