Dolphin Attack targets devices with Siri, Google Assistant and others activated

Alexa, Siri, Cortana vulnerable to "silent hacking"

Hackers can trick voice services such as Alexa and Siri with 'silent' commands

More importantly, they learned that DolphinAttack can even be used to issue malicious attacks.

"Dr Steven Murdoch, a cyber-security researcher at University College London said", Even though the devices are not created to handle ultrasound, if you put something just outside the range of human hearing, the assistant can still receive it so it's certainly possible".

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The microphones built into some of the most popular home speakers, including the Amazon Echo and Google Home, and common consumer devices like tablets and laptops, are able to pick up the inaudible commands and perform tasks seemingly at random to their user.

The microphones listen to frequencies beyond human hearing to reinforce their ability to understand language, and separate it from surrounding noise.

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Using a variety of commands like activating Siri or initiating FaceTime call on iPhone, the researchers were able to make the programs carry them out. They even used ultrasound, which is silent to human ears, to successfully give commands to these devices.

The researchers said the attack does have a limited range and a hacker would need within 1.7 metres of the device in order to exploit the vulnerability. Modifying a smartphone to issue such commands costs around $3. They then tested if voice control systems, including Siri, Google Now, Alexa, and Cortana, would follow the commands. You'd also have to have your assistant activated, in the case of Siri or Google Assistant, and if an ultrasonic commanded activated, those systems would make a tone or reply back, alerting the user. For instance, hackers can use it to instruct a device to open a website that prompts a virus. Hackers could use a phrase such as "he carries cake to the city", and slice up the phonemes to create the phrase "hey, Siri". The smartphone to which the signal has to be transmitted to should be within five to six feet from the transmitter.

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The team did provide ways the Dolphin attack could be prevented. However, that would mean users would have to manually open the voice recognition interface every time they wanted to use it. The researchers have also noted that it would be easy to implement a fix by just tweaking the hardware or software to ignore commands outside a certain frequency range.

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