Your Earbuds Can Be Made Into Microphones With Just A Bit Of Malware

from the mic-drop dept

Hyperconnectivity has many positive aspects for many of us, though there are negatives as well. One of the negatives that come along with connectivity is the idea that everything we love can be used to spy on us. Back when prevalent criminal hacking was in the arena of science fiction and broad government surveillance was limited to thematic elements in Orwell novels, the public fear over security exploits like this was limited. Given that the alphabet agencies continue to be shown to use our devices to spy on us, however, Americans likely look more warily at their favorite technology than they did a decade ago. Everything, it seems, is a vector for an invasion of your privacy.

Including, potentially, your headphones. Israeli researchers have shown how, with the aid of some malware, your headphones can be converted into microphones in order to listen in on whatever you happen to be doing.

Researchers at Israel’s Ben Gurion University have created a piece of proof-of-concept code they call “Speake(a)r,” designed to demonstrate how determined hackers could find a way to surreptitiously hijack a computer to record audio even when the device’s microphones have been entirely removed or disabled. The experimental malware instead repurposes the speakers in earbuds or headphones to use them as microphones, converting the vibrations in air into electromagnetic signals to clearly capture audio from across a room.

“People don’t think about this privacy vulnerability,” says Mordechai Guri, the research lead of Ben Gurion’s Cyber Security Research Labs. “Even if you remove your computer’s microphone, if you use headphones you can be recorded.”

And, just like that, I'll never look at my favorite set of earbuds the same way again. What this ultimately points out is that determined hackers will find creative ways to use our own devices against us. That isn't new. What is new seems to be the never ending reports of how devices, be they IoT devices or not, can be repurposed for nefarious ends. The use of all of this by our own government, as well as our government's request for backdoors built into technology, only increases the threat vectors for this type of thing.

This particular exploit relies on ubiquitous RealTek codec chips, which can be instructed by the malware used to switch an output channel to an input channel. Those chips are everywhere and there is no current method to secure them via a patch or update.

There’s no simple software patch for the eavesdropping attack, Guri says. The property of RealTek’s audio codec chips that allows a program to switch an output channel to an input isn’t an accidental bug so much as a dangerous feature, Guri says, and one that can’t be easily fixed without redesigning and replacing the chip in future computers.

Until then, paranoiacs take note: If determined hackers are out to bug your conversations, all your careful microphone removal surgery isn’t quite enough—you’ll also need to unplug that pair of cheap earbuds hanging around your neck.

When even our headphones are a potential enemy, the world has gone mad.

Filed Under: earbuds, microphones, privacy


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 5:43pm

    >install malware
    >bad things happen

    Do we really need a breathless report every time someone discovers something that can be done with a computer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 2:00am

      Re:

      Hmmm, I don't know about you but I am interested in new ways malware is being used. Your line would translate like "sexual contact spread diseases, no need to report if the new disease goes through condoms".

      So, yes, it is important to know your gadgets can be turned into spying devices even if their original purpose would make even the most conspiracy nut among us believe otherwise.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Jeremy Lyman (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 4:40am

        Re: Re:

        I agree with both of you, I want to hear about new probes into security but I don't need the doom and gloom preface beforehand. I'm really not sure why these broad strokes of 'everything is out to get you and nothing is safe' don't set off Tech Dirt's FUD alarms every time.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          DannyB (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:27am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I don't need the doom and gloom preface either. Especially since I generally engage in the doom and gloom outlook myself.

          But some people DO need it. Wake up! That is the message.

          From TFA . . .

          paranoiacs take note

          No matter how paranoid and tin foil hat crazy sounding my concerns have been over the years, it always turns out that things are already worse than I imagined.

          I DO NOT need to now be told of every example of new malware that can listen through my ear buds. The general purpose takeaway message is: unplug earbuds when not in use. Just as with the camera, put black tape over it when not in use. But I don't need to know about every new instance of web cam spyware.

          I DO need to know about every new capability, such as using the earbuds as microphones.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Using speakers as microphones is not a new discovery. The only novel thing was the vulnerability in the driver software. The people who are paranoid enough to remove all microphones from their computer surely know the risks of malware and how to avoid it.

            Honestly, if you're infected with malware there's a lot worse they can do than make a distorted recording of your heavy breathing.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 4:51am

      Re:

      Snark response ignores the obvious.
      Most malware is installed without the users' knowledge.

      - it should read:
      >company installs malware on victims computer
      >nothing bad happens to company

      And this also is news, a bit repetitious but still news.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 30 Nov 2016 @ 7:34am

      Re:

      In case you hadn't noticed the name of the site is TECHDIRT.

      Your question:
      "Do we really need a breathless report every time someone discovers something that can be done with a computer?"

      Should be:
      Do we really need a breathless report every time someone discovers something new that can be done with a computer?
      ANSWER: Yes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 12:00pm

        Re: Re:

        As mentioned before, this isn't new. Malware isn't magic, it simply means someone else controls capabilities you had.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:17pm

        Re: Re:

        What's new isn't that headphones can be turned into a microphone; it's the combination of that and the fact that the Realtek chipset's headphone output can be turned into an input. I wouldn't have guessed it, myself. (I mean the chipset thing. I also already knew that a dynamic speaker can be used as a mic.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 1 Dec 2016 @ 12:43am

        Re: Re:

        "Do we really need a breathless report every time someone discovers something new that can be done with a computer?"

        Except, this isn't something new. Do we need a report every time some random person learns something?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 5:44pm

    Not really surprising. Many devices can already use headphones to receive radio signals. Turning them into a microphone was the next logical step.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 4:53am

      Re:

      That is how they pipe the mind control signals into your brain.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:31am

        Re: Re:

        Based on my experience, I would recommend that when you fashion your aluminum headwear that you use TWO layers of tin foil rather than just one. This more than doubles the effectiveness. The reason is that a resonance effect develops between the two layers, at exactly double the frequency of the government's invisible brain lasers.

        In addition, if you create two antennas on the top instead of one, it further increases the effectiveness by an additional 37 percent.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I doubt the post to which you replied was serious, but I could be wrong.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          I.T. Guy, 30 Nov 2016 @ 7:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          As a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist your suggestion of Aluminum is a conspiracy in itself as Aluminum attracts signals, and the round shape of the head concentrates the signal to the brain center. My hat is pure copper, like an island drum.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 10:02am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I'll have you take back those mean and nasty things your saying about my Aluminum hat. According to the Wiki, it's working as advertised. :/

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_foil_hat


            "The notion that a metal foil hat can significantly reduce the intensity of incident radio frequency radiation on the wearer's brain has some scientific validity, as the effect of strong radio waves has been documented for quite some time.[6] A well-constructed aluminum foil enclosure would approximate a Faraday cage, reducing the amount of (typically harmless) radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation passing through to the interior of the structure. A common high school physics demonstration involves placing an AM radio on aluminum foil, and then covering the radio with a metal bucket. This leads to a noticeable reduction in signal strength."

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 11:05am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You trust Wikipedia? Might as well get your news straight from the Illuminati newsletter. Wake up!

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 11:29am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Dang man, I thought I had it all figured out. It's the mind control, it's got me!! :/ I'll need to find some copper I guess...

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 6:24pm

    Not the most earth shattering discovery

    If you have a cell phone or other computer around you, you are not in a secure area.

    remember when they could use a photo-detector to read the data going over a modem? Or power fluctuations in the power supply? Or a microphone to detect what you type into a keyboard?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 8:01pm

      Re: Not the most earth shattering discovery

      Last year I read about a company planning to hand employees Microsoft Bands with some custom web-connected app. My first thought was "Their employees will have networked tracking devices with microphones strapped to them all day?"

      Being marketed as a fitness device, the Microsoft Band's sensors included a heart rate sensor and skin galvanometer. "Their employees will have networked lie detectors strapped to them all day?"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 4:55am

        Re: Re: Not the most earth shattering discovery

        Certainly this was not mandatory at that particular company.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          I.T. Guy, 30 Nov 2016 @ 7:42am

          Re: Re: Re: Not the most earth shattering discovery

          Not yet. They will bill it as some sort of "know your numbers" bullshit and although it will be touted as voluntary, they will have to pay more for health insurance if they dont "volunteer" for the program.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 4:58am

      Re: Not the most earth shattering discovery

      Remember when ....?

      You type that as though it were no longer the case, nothing has changed in this regard as those are all still valid concerns even though the specific example might be outdated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:43am

        Re: Re: Not the most earth shattering discovery

        Don't forget laser microphones.

        Don't forget that if you use a CRT at night in a dark room, like back in the covered wagon days, a van on the street can capture the glow of the CRT on the wall or ceiling and re-create a fairly decent readable copy of what is on the CRT. It just takes a few guesses at the refresh rate and how many scan lines tall the screen image is.

        Another thing. Suppose there is some subject that you are not supposed to see. It is in an area not exposed to public view. But part of the walls of the area are visible to public view. So you could capture the color of the light reflecting on one of those walls visible to the subject. Now suppose you could replace a light source in the secure area with digital projector such as used in a conference room. The projector would, like a flood light, project light upon the subject. But that light is a rectangular array of pixels. And it would illuminate the area, one pixel at a time, at high speed. Now it is possible to capture the reflected light on the wall, from a public area, and re-create what the light source can "see". The recreated image looks as though you "see" it as through the projector (eg "light bulb") as if it were a camera. I'm not sure of the practicality of this, but I know there was a good article about the success of the technique on Slashdot some years ago.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 9:31am

          Re: Re: Re: Not the most earth shattering discovery

          Don't forget laser microphones.

          And there was that experiment with recording video of a potato chip bag and recreating a nearby conversation from its vibrations.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 6:44pm

    The long run

    Don't wear ear buds, it's rude.

    Don't wear headphones, you can't hear anything else (your phone is ringing).

    Don't use speakers, it is likely you are violating someones perceived rights, if your not listening to a 'fully authorized, DRM infected' source. You old analog owners beware. Vinyl won't have protections for long, you will need a subscription to listen to those old albums (as stated in the 2025 copyright update passed by congress with a 98% approval and shrugged at by SCOTUS when sued as unconstitutional).

    Have your hearing impaired so that you no longer need speakers of any kind, but then watch out for police who yell all kinds of thing at you that you won't hear, and then they will have an excuse to shoot you, because they don't care if you can't hear. Your failure to obey put their lives in danger. Oh, and no excuse for not recognizing their sign language expressed at 10,000,000 decibels (you think cops know the difference?), cuz it won't be a real argument, you will be dead. Not to mention lipreading those cops behind you, failure to turn around and intently read lips is a lethal offence.

    This particular hack is really insipid, isn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Phoenix84 (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 7:05pm

    Why is this news?
    I remember playing with headphones when I was a kid, 20 years ago, and turning them into a microphone. They're sucky mics, but they work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 7:15pm

      Re:

      Why is this news? I remember playing with headphones when I was a kid, 20 years ago, and turning them into a microphone.

      It's a bad headline. The news is not that headphones/speakers can be made into microphones, it's that a computer's headphone jack can be made into a microphone jack. (Which isn't shocking either, if you've read some datasheets and thought about it, but isn't so obvious—for ex., as was pointed out on Bruce Schneier's blog, Snowden didn't mention it when demonstrating how to desolder the microphones on a smartphone to "go black".)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 12:32am

      Re:

      Yeah, the way this has been reported everywhere is as if people are shocked that the physical headphones can work as mics. This is sloppy, that fact has been known for a long, long time and it's not news in any way (or at least shouldn't be on a site with a tech savvy audience).

      The specifics of the actual issue found are as follows:

      "Their malware uses a little-known feature of RealTek audio codec chips to silently “retask” the computer’s output channel as an input channel, allowing the malware to record audio even when the headphones remain connected into an output-only jack and don’t even have a microphone channel on their plug"

      So, the surprise here is that headphones plugged into a headphone jack can act as a mic without any user interaction to do that (such as plugging into a mic socket). Well, it's not actually a surprise that such a feature can be used by malware, but it's good to note that this feature and thus vulnerability exists.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 2:04am

        Re: Re:

        Thinking about it I figured it shouldn't be that much of a surprise given you can assign functions to the audio jacks as you see fit via software. Still the headline can be misleading yes. But it's worth reporting on it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:45am

        Re: Re:

        The fact that the headphone jack shouldn't be that shocking either.

        Years ago, weren't there devices, like a credit card reader, that connected to the phone only via the headphone jack?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 8:49am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Years ago, weren't there devices, like a credit card reader, that connected to the phone only via the headphone jack?

          On a phone that's a headphone+microphone jack, and you'll see the extra connection if you look at the plug on a headset (a TRRS plug with 4 parts: microphone, ground, right output, left output). But now we know that even a 3-connection TRS plug can capture audio.

          Unplugging it probably isn't good enough: the phone has a built-in speaker to play ringtones, and that could be reversed too. Likewise, PCs generally have at least one built-in speaker for the BIOS beep, and laptops have speakers connected to the Realtek audio chip.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        I.T. Guy, 30 Nov 2016 @ 7:55am

        Re: Re:

        "with a tech savvy audience"
        Not all tech savvy people are audiophiles.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 8:26am

          Re: Re: Re:

          What does being an audiophile have to do with this? We're talking about basic physics, not whether the format is good enough for you to feel superior over people who listen to compressed audio.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 10:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I'm thinking he was trying to say "Audio Technician", and confused the term with "audiophile" asshole.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 1 Dec 2016 @ 12:38am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "asshole"

              I assume you're the model of maturity AC who lost his shit when I pointed our that not knowing the difference between Java and Javascript invalidated any arguments you wanted to make on their usage? The one who imagines grand conspiracies when a community tells him to stop being a prick?

              Words mean things. If you're going to have argument using them, make sure you know what that is. Your inability to have an adult conversation without devolving into a sweary little child and your proud ignorance of language do not change this fact one bit.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 1 Dec 2016 @ 12:39am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Oh, and I'll note that most people who are aware of this basic fact are not audio technicians, so he'd be wrong even if he understood the words he was using.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2016 @ 4:43am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "I assume"

                Stop assuming. You look like a fucking idiot.

                "Words mean things. If you're going to have argument using them, make sure you know what that is."

                That is why your an asshole, you've explained it perfectly. I read his comment once and knew what he was trying to say. Just because he didn't use the correct words, doesn't make his argument any less valid. Instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt, you took the opportunity to try and look superior. You are an asshole, plain and simple.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2016 @ 4:46am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "I assume"

                Stop assuming. You look like a f*cking idi0t.

                "Words mean things. If you're going to have argument using them, make sure you know what that is."

                That is why your an a**hole, you've explained it perfectly. I read his comment once and knew what he was trying to say. Just because he didn't use the correct words, doesn't make his argument any less valid. Instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt, you took the opportunity to try and look superior. You are an a**hole, plain and simple.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 1 Dec 2016 @ 6:45am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "You look like a f*cking idi0t"

                  We'll let the other readers of this site work out who looks like the idiot. I'll guess it's more likely to be the sweary child having a tantrum than the adult calmly telling them to stop making a scene.

                  "I read his comment once and knew what he was trying to say"

                  ...and then spent time ranting because someone else didn't interpret it the same way. Even if you had the higher ground, you lost it the second you started typing this comment in the state you did.

                  Plus, again, even if he did simply misuse a word, the point he was making was still wrong. Having any specific audio expertise is irrelevant. Throwing a fit doesn't change that.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2016 @ 7:42am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    "...and then spent time ranting because someone else didn't interpret it the same way. "

                    Not ranting, pointing out your arrogance. I.T. Guy tried to say something, miss used a word, and you try to invalidate his entire statement instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt. It's bully behavior of the worst kind, intellectual. And instead of just apologizing and being cool about it, you double down on dumbass.

                    "Plus, again, even if he did simply misuse a word, the point he was making was still wrong. Having any specific audio expertise is irrelevant. "

                    No, your completely wrong. Understand how microphones, and and their associated equipment's hard and software works, is very much part of being an Audio Technician. There may be other un-releated jobs that require knowledge of such, sure. But he's not wrong. As art guerrilla noted below, there are many "tricks" Audio Technicians and Musicians utilize to produce or record sound using headphones and the headphone jack.


                    Being "tech savvy" does not make you an Audio Technician. That was what he was trying to say before you climbed up on your high horse and talked down to him.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • icon
                      PaulT (profile), 1 Dec 2016 @ 8:22am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      "I.T. Guy tried to say something, miss used a word, and you try to invalidate his entire statement instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt"

                      No, I addressed what he actually said, not what he wished he said. If one of us is mistaken, I'm in the habit of addressing grown adults who are capable of laughing it off or bantering a little more, not whining like a little brat. But, then, there's you...

                      I will note that he hasn't returned, so you're assuming as much as I am. I will apologise if my slightly sarcastic comment didn't address what was in his head if he feels it wasn't correct. I won't apologise to the petulant fool who decided to dive in and display his lack of maturity, though.

                      "Understand how microphones, and and their associated equipment's hard and software works, is very much part of being an Audio Technician"

                      ...among many other professions, hobbies and general living life in the modern world. Most people who know this fact probably learned it in school or at home. I was probably 8 when I learned of this fact, which I learned by observing what happened when I accidentally plugged the jack in the wrong place. After which, I used the headphones to record some amazingly bad audio to tape, which amused me for a few moments. Then, learning basic electronics in school educated me as to why it happened.

                      I'm amused to learn this automatically means I work in the field, however, especially since I've never so much as bought an actual microphone unless it was attached to a phone, laptop or headset. Which other professions do I have by making basic observations about the world around me, I wonder?

                      Stop digging, you've embarrassed yourself enough.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • icon
                        nasch (profile), 1 Dec 2016 @ 8:35am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        I'm amused to learn this automatically means I work in the field

                        That's a logic fail. He said "Understand [sic] how microphones... works, is very much part of being an Audio Technician". So if p (one is an audio technician) then q (one understands microphones). This does not imply that if q then p.

                        But maybe you were just joking.

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • icon
                          PaulT (profile), 2 Dec 2016 @ 1:31am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          "But maybe you were just joking."

                          I've been full on sarcasm since it was implied that audiophiles understood technology. I'm just keeping it up since some idiot decided to jump in and make it personal...

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2016 @ 9:19am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        " I will apologise [sic] if my slightly sarcastic comment didn't address what was in his head if he feels it wasn't correct."

                        Finally! Not that you care; but stopped reading right there. It really doesn't matter whats said after this point, although I'm sure the rest of your post is your typical self serving, name calling, finger pointing babble.

                        On I.T. Guys behalf, (again not that anyone cares) your apology is accepted.

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • identicon
                          Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2016 @ 9:30am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          Comedy gold!

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • icon
                          PaulT (profile), 2 Dec 2016 @ 1:33am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          "Finally!"

                          He hasn't commented yet. I don't believe he authorised you as his personal representative here, although you seem to have taken that job up for some reason.

                          Next time, I think he might appreciate it if you did so without the childish sweary tantrum, though. I know I wouldn't want a raging moron representing me if I were him.

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                          • identicon
                            Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2016 @ 10:02am

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                            " I don't believe he authorised you as his personal representative"

                            "Next time, I think he might appreciate it"

                            Looks like the job's already taken?

                            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2016 @ 4:48am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "Oh, and I'll note that most people who are aware of this basic fact are not audio technicians, so he'd be wrong even if he understood the words he was using."

                "citation needed"

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          DannyB (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 10:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          My experience leads me to believe that tech savvy and audiophile are mutually exclusive.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Niall (profile), 1 Dec 2016 @ 5:39am

        Re: Re:

        It's also news that it was done using a far-too ubiquitous chip that of course has no way of being updated or replaced.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 3:33am

      Re:

      yep, used to take regular headphones, 'wear' them on an acoustic guitar, put the banana plug in the mic input, and, voila!, instant semi-electric guitar...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 29 Nov 2016 @ 10:37pm

    Is it only the headphone jack that can be repurposed, or can the same be done with the generic audio out jack normally used for speakers? (my computer has both a generic audio out jack, which sucks for headphone use, and a dedicated headphone jack that has higher levels)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:34am

      Re:

      Is it only the headphone jack that can be repurposed, or can the same be done with the generic audio out jack normally used for speakers?

      The specifics may vary depending on the exact hardware, but there's no reason to assume other jacks would be safer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:23pm

      Re:

      If you're worried about your desktop computer speakers being repurposed, chances are they're powered speakers. Those aren't going to be able to pass the signal backwards through the amplifier.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 5:01am

    What's up with the periodic person(s) complaining about the article content? If you do not like it gtfo, make your own techdirt, or simply stop with the bullshit. Who's paying you idiots?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 5:04am

    for some time, now, i've tried to train myself to not speak even snippets of my jillion passwords as i key them in. this news is not news if you think ahead a little bit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 5:24am

    >There’s no simple software patch for the eavesdropping attack,

    There is a simple way to block the attack, keep something playing on your earphones, as an attack would have to check for active use before switching to microphone mode, as silence would make the user investigate their earphones. You do not need to be listening to it, just keep the output mode occupied.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:31am

      Re:

      There is a simple way to block the attack, keep something playing on your earphones, as an attack would have to check for active use before switching to microphone mode, as silence would make the user investigate their earphones.

      Most audio tracks would have occasional silence. Do we know how quickly this can be switched? It seems optimistic to assume it will be audible.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:20pm

      Re:

      "There is a simple way to block the attack, keep something playing on your earphones, as an attack would have to check for active use before switching to microphone mode, as silence would make the user investigate their earphones. You do not need to be listening to it, just keep the output mode occupied."

      ... Or unplug your earphones when they're not in use.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim, 30 Nov 2016 @ 5:59am

    But:

    One of the first ever programs, to show college students can do in assembly language? How to change ports. And my first class on computer languages was was in the early 80's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 8:15am

    This sounds like bullshit. The video on YouTube shows headphones with a mic near the computer while they do the test.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 8:55am

    Re: One of the negatives that come along with connectivity is the idea that everything we love can be used to spy on us

    Not so much no. I don't think most people really realize that in any fundamental way.

    The negative, is that barrier to entry for managing the individual identity is increasing. IMHO the next evolution of porn blackmail, is just collective dirt brokering on every facet of an individuals life.

    The only people who are going to be able to maintain any kind of reasonably untainted identity are those who've never done anything worth noting, and those who can pay large sums to clean up after themselves in the post epoch dirt market.

    This will become a social class deliniating factor. Ultimately it will taint the pool of available leadership, just like formal aristocracy did in Britain. It might be fair to say that it already has, looking at the last electoral cycle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 9:09am

    First of all, remember that aluminum foil works well to block radio waves, but it does nothing to block mind control rays. You need tin foil to block that. But the government long ago secretly banned tin foil, using the rays to cause aluminum foil to be substituted in every application.

    Back to the point at hand. I don't know why these people are getting press. This is a a specific feature of many modern audio subsystems. It's ubiquitous on mobile SoCs (phone and tablet chips). It's used to automatically adapt to the incompatible plugs of mono earphones, stereo headphones, mono headsets (w/ mic) and stereo headsets. Some even support uncommon connections such as stereo microphones, digital audio, Rx/Tx serial connections, and combined optical digital audio (an optical fiber or IR LED/receiver on the very tip of the 1/8" plug).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CharlieBrown, 30 Nov 2016 @ 3:45pm

    An old hack

    While it's not good that it has been done, I did wonder how long it would be before somebody did it.

    When I was a kid, I used to plug my headphones into the microphone socket of my cassette recorder and guess what I had then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MrTroy (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 5:28pm

    When even our headphones are a potential enemy, the world has gone mad.

    In fairness, headphones have been a potential enemy ever since physics was a thing.

    The world becomes mad when our headphones become a viable enemy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:29pm

    I use bluetooth headsets, myself. Those won't transmit sound back when they're in streaming mode, and if they're in headset mode, it's a live mic by design. (Also much lower quality sound.)

    Except on my desktop when I'm playing video games, and I've got a mic plugged in anyway to talk to my gaming buddies. No need to get elaborate. But what you hear will probably not be terribly interesting unless you're a fan of Payday 2. And probably not then, either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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