Privacy Alert Can you hear me now? Malware turns headphones into mics for eavesdropping

frogboy

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Headphones and other speaker devices plugged into a computer’s audio output jack can be converted into a microphone that secretly records nearby conversations by modifying the device’s software via malware, according to a new research report.

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel have created this proof-of-concept malware, named SPEAKEaR, which exploits an option found in Realtek Semiconductor Corp. audio chipsets called jack retasking or remapping, which allows a user to change the function of an audio port at the software level. In other words, an output jack typically used to project sounds can be switched to an input jack that instead records audio, allowing attackers to eavesdrop.

These chipsets are found in most modern motherboards and sound cards, the report explains, thus making a majority of today's PCs and laptops susceptible.

Ben-Gurion University researchers Mordechai Guri, Yosef Solewicz, Andrey Daidakulov and Yuval Elovici conducted a test of the malware, documenting their findings in a YouTube demonstration in which headphones connected to a computer are used to record Chubby Checker singing “The Twist” on a television set across the room.

Indeed, the report concludes that technique is effective at capturing intelligence audio with earphones “up to several meters away.”


Read More. Can you hear me now? Malware turns headphones into mics for eavesdropping
 

Fritz

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[…] how does that change a pair of headphones from what their technological purpose actually is?

Without much trouble at all. A microphone and a headphone or speaker follow the same concept. It's a membrane that's being moved, either by an electrical signal in order to produce sound or by moving the thing with sound in order to produce an electrical signal. Just like a door marked "exit" might as well be used to enter technically.

Granted, both are optimized for their respective purpose. Membranes that are supposed to produce sound are usually bigger, which increases the needed power level to move the associated mass, but an amplifier works wonders. Don't expect concert quality, but the result will be intelligible.
 

frogboy

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Without much trouble at all. A microphone and a headphone or speaker follow the same concept. It's a membrane that's being moved, either by an electrical signal in order to produce sound or by moving the thing with sound in order to produce an electrical signal. Just like a door marked "exit" might as well be used to enter technically.

Granted, both are optimized for their respective purpose. Membranes that are supposed to produce sound are usually bigger, which increases the needed power level to move the associated mass, but an amplifier works wonders. Don't expect concert quality, but the result will be intelligible.
Agreed it just uses the diaphragm in reverse i guess. :)
 

jamescv7

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You know its similar to an article where you can get the information through signals via Rogue WiFI.

Since you are going to manipulate the configuration on sound card drivers thus the headphones and microphones can transmits sound signals without a problem.