Smart Devices Hacked to be Used as Surveillance Tools

The fact that smart devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs can easily be used as surveillance devices is not a surprise. We all know that being dependent on technology leaves us vulnerable to surveillances, hackers, viruses and every other dark vice. From secretly stealing our information through hidden SDKs to exploiting our privacy by malicious spying apps, there’s no safe zone out there with smart devices.

A recent study by the University of Washington reveals that built-in microphones could be used to hijack a user’s phone and detect the body position and movement of people within its vicinity. This would be through the use of music. Yep, you read that right.

According to the study, the devices can be modified to play music which could then analyze reflected sounds to track body movements and position. The music will actually hide a chirp signal with musical beats and the chirp signals will reflect movements of the human body which when analyzed gives a host of information about the person.

All of this is achieved by using a software called CovertBand which turns a smart device into a remote-controlled sonar system and uses the built-in speaker and microphone. With the software, the researchers were able to detect multiple individuals within the same room as the device. Even an individual walking about twenty feet away could be detected by the technique.

Although this sounds dangerous, the idea is flawed. It would actually require an attacker to play music. This means that your smart device has to start playing a sound track on its own in order to detect your movements. So if your smart TV started playing a sound track on its own, you’d definitely notice it (and attribute it to supernatural presence!). The research, however, did not mention precisely how the certain information would benefit them. Nevertheless, the fact that surveillance can get so close and personal is an unsettling affair and once more reiterates the fact that we cannot be naïve about our devices.

It is of utmost importance that we be alert with our devices and be able to detect any odd performance. We should also avoid downloading insecure apps and not be so careless with our app permissions. Many people blindly agree to all permissions requested by an app because they are not aware of the dangerous repercussions of it. This was how a rogue Chinese SDK got people’s call log information on Android and this is how most apps will be able to take control of your phone when you allow them permissions to access your calls, camera, speakers, messages and other core phone functions. Although smart devices have made life quite easier and give us access to a world of information, it has also left us with serious privacy and security issues. We could choose to take our privacy seriously and use our smart devices smartly or we could choose to compromise important information for the sake of easy usability.

Farah tries to keep up with the fast-paced tech world by writing about it. She covers latest tech news and writes informative pieces to help her readers make informed decisions about their tech preferences.