Hackers can turn speakers into acoustic cyberweapons (shades of Havana Syndrome)


EXCERPT: . . . It’s creepy enough that companies have experimented with tracking user browsing by playing inaudible, ultrasonic beacons through their computer and phone speakers when they visit certain websites. But Matt Wixey, cybersecurity research lead at the technology consulting firm PWC UK, says that it’s surprisingly easy to write custom malware that can induce all sorts of embedded speakers to emit inaudible frequencies at high intensity, or blast out audible sounds at high volume. Those aural barrages can potentially harm human hearing, cause tinnitus, or even possibly have psychological effects.

[...] Wixey found that the smart speaker, the headphones, and the parametric speaker were capable of emitting high frequencies that exceeded the average recommended by several academic guidelines. The Bluetooth speaker, the noise canceling headphones, and the smart speaker again were able to emit low frequencies that exceeded the average recommendations.

Additionally, attacking the smart speaker in particular generated enough heat to start melting its internal components after four or five minutes, permanently damaging the device. Wixey disclosed this finding to the manufacturer and says that the device maker issued a patch. Wixey says that he is not releasing any of the acoustic malware he wrote for the project or naming any of the specific devices he tested. He also did not test the device attacks on humans.

[...] The experiments on the internet-connected smart speaker also highlight the potential for acoustic malware to be distributed and controlled through remote access attacks. And Wixey notes that existing research on detrimental human exposure to acoustic emanations has found potential effects that are both physiological and psychological.

The acoustic academic research community has increasingly been warning about the issue as well. "We are currently in the undesirable situation where a member of the public can purchase a $20 device that can be used to expose another human to sound pressure levels...in excess of the maximum permissible levels for public exposure," Timothy Leighton, a researcher at the University of Southampton wrote in the October issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

And while it is still unclear whether acoustic weapons played a role in the attack on United States diplomats in Cuba, there are certainly other devices that intentionally use loud or intense acoustic emanations as a deterrent weapon, like sound cannons used for crowd control. “As the world becomes connected and the boundaries break down, the attack surface is going to continue to grow,” Wixey says. “That was basically our finding. We were only scratching the surface and acoustic cyber-weapon attacks could potentially be done at a much larger scale using something like sound systems at arenas or commercial PA systems in office buildings.” (MORE - details)

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(Aug 12, 2019 08:30 AM)stryder Wrote: Hackers have known about the "dark side" of altering technology for a while.

LOL. So there is life after obsolescence for FDDs.

In contrast, the Pearly Gates Community Volunteer Band can't even sound the Devil's Interval, much less play the Imperial March.

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