As Microsoft pushes Vista out the door, the company has a lot riding on the claim that the new operating system is significantly better than previous versions of Windows, in terms of security. While there have been some scattered reports of flaws, which is always to be expected, many feel that the company has made good progress in securing its system. One new vulnerability comes from the fact that Vista has voice recognition capabilities, and that the user can speak commands to the computer through a microphone. George Ou decided to test the question of whether a website could play an audio file containing spoken commands and commandeer the user's computer. As it turns out, if the speech is clear enough, the computer will respond to commands that come out of its own speakers. The volume didn't even need to be too high. It's still not clear how much of a threat this really is. Many people won't even have this capability activated, and if you stumble onto a website that starts barking orders to your computer, you might realize something odd is going on. But, as with many online threats, an attacker doesn't need a high rate of success for a certain approach to be worthwhile. For Microsoft, it will probably be one of several security issues it will have to deal with down the road.
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