Researchers have discovered a way to take control of a mobile using the personal assistant; and all that without us knowing.
Personal assistants are a swiss army knife who can help us in all kinds of situations; Their potential is such that they have already become an aspect to consider when choosing a new smartphone.
However, we would do well to remember what all that potential implies; means that personal assistants have a lot of power, both on our device and in our accounts.
The personal assistant, an attack vector
Normally this is not a problem, of course; most personal assistants are voice activated and therefore if someone tries to use them we will find out. But what if we can’t find out?
That was the study of a team from the universities of Berkley and Georgetown; they wanted to see if personal assistants could be an attack vector, exploitable with malicious motives. And the answer is a resounding yes, although it is not easy.
The key to the investigation was to see how far they could modify the sound of an order so that the assistant understood it, but not the owner of the mobile.
What they discovered was very interesting. There is a magic point, where the voice is so distorted that the average human being thinks it’s noise; but that a computer system is perfectly capable of recognizing and understanding.
In tests, people were able to understand a voice message modified in this way only 20% of the time; instead, an assistant like Google Assistant recognized it 95% of the time.
How it is possible to take control of a mobile using the personal assistant
The program developed to create these hidden commands generates sounds from beyond the grave; it is as if they came out of the mouth of a demon or a black metal singer.
However, if you listen carefully you will notice that he gives an order; In the case of the video below, What is my current location.
Is a noise that we would not normally pay attention to; but in the tests, the researchers managed to activate the assistant of a mobile phone at a distance of about 3 meters, even with ambient noise.
That does not mean that we have to be at that distance to execute the attack; the sound could come from speakers, hidden in a Youtube video, for example.
The researchers focused on using their method in Google Assistant, the assistant built into Android phones; Although the test also worked on an iPhone with the Google app installed.
This research confirms something we already fear; that personal assistants are becoming a potential danger.
Not surprisingly, not long ago we were talking about massive orders to Amazon because a television presenter gave an order.