Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Alexa Can Hear Commands You Can't, Which Hackers Could Exploit

White House AI Summit Alexa Can Hear Commands You Can't, Which Hackers Could Exploit
Emmett Howard | 11 May, 2018, 19:13

The researchers have now demonstrated that automatic speech recognition, too, is vulnerable to such attacks. The group provided samples of songs where voice commands have been embedded to make digital assistants do specific things, including visiting websites, turning on Global Positioning System, and making phone calls.

According to the New York Times, researchers in both China and the US have carried out a series of experiments which ultimately proved that it's possible to communicate silent commands that are undetectable to the human ear to voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. These commands were reportedly able to activate the artificial intelligence (AI) systems on smartphones and smart speakers to dial phone numbers or open websites - all without the consent of end users.

Unfortunately, "in the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online - simply with music playing over the radio".

Researchers from the United States and China have demonstrated the possibility of hiding malicious voice commands in music that Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google Assistant will follow.

The hidden instruction is inaudible to the human ear, so there's no easy way of telling when Alexa might be tricked into adding an item to your Amazon shopping cart or unlocking your front door, for example. However, he figures "that the malicious people already employ people to do" what he does.

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With audio attacks, the researchers are exploiting the gap between human and machine speech recognition.

As the Times points out, voice recognition systems are set up to recognize each sound you make as a letter, which the system then collects into complete words and phrases. With nearly all virtual assistants getting more features, its time we address the inherent security loopholes they open up. Researchers estimate that more than half of American homes will have at least one smart speaker by 2022, so it's not hard to imagine this sort of thing becoming a problem if the vulnerability isn't addressed. Google said security is a continuing focus and its Assistant has features to mitigate undetectable audio commands.

UC Berkeley reveals that stealthy commands can be picked up by popular voice assistants.

Apple said it's HomePod smart speaker is created to prevent commands from doing things like unlocking doors, and it noted that iPhones and iPads must be unlocked before Siri will act on commands. For its part, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has discouraged the practice, calling it "counter to the public interest". It turns out, anything that can be spoken to is also prone to subliminal messaging.

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