Your Smartphone Mic May Get You Hacked

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Smartphone owners pick android devices that become their pride and joy. They know more about us than our closest friends and record every detail of our lives with stunning precision. In the recent bout of bad news it seems like there’s a new way for you to compromise our personal information and data. Remember how apps that use your mic generally ask for your permission before they get access? Well, while your mic access requires permission, fiddling with your motion sensors doesn’t.

While it doesn’t sound like such a huge threat, researchers from Stanford University and defense firm Rafael have actually been tinkering around with Android sets and have figured out a way to use the phone’s gyroscopes and turn them into crude mics. So while your actual mic may not present a threat to you, your motion sensors are a whole other story.

The Trickery Behind

The app created under the collaboration is being called “Gyrophone” and it promises to do things no other app has ever managed before. Gyrophone works not through any maneuvering of the existing mic, but through manipulation of the vibrating pressure plates that make your phone buzz each time you get a call or notification. These little plates can actually pick up on the vibrations that exist because of sounds. Within the 80-250 hertz range, anything that happens close to your phone has the potential of being recorded — the tricky part is that this is the precise range within which a human voice functions.

Who is under threat?

At this point iPhone users can actually rejoice for just a bit. While Androids are stuck to their own hertz problems, an iPhone’s sensors only function on frequencies that are lower than 100 hertz. This technically means that even if one tries one cannot tap into an iPhone to listen in to any conversations by means of its motions sensors. Sure, the person listening in can tell if you’re a man or a woman and they could perhaps make out a word or two, but in the grand scheme of things they can’t really do much about the data they record from an iPhone.

Android's problem?

The research is an important part of the Usenix Security conference. Android has long since battled security problems and other related issues. Being an open source platform has helped it grow exponentially, but the same open nature has also made it the repeated target of attacks. Google seems to be handling the study fairly well. Third party research such as this one has helped Google make the android platform more secure in the past — and they plan to do just that this time around as well.

Hopefully, the tech giant will be able to tackle the problem and nip it in the bud before it becomes an actual method of exploitation. At present the best users can do is be very vigilant about the security and privacy measures that they need to take to keep themselves safer in an increasingly digitized world.

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