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Alexa, Siri, And Google Assistant Follow Malicious Voice Commands Hidden In Music

14 May 2018

Well, it might not be your dodgy accent to blame as a bunch of researchers have found ways to manipulate the likes of Siri and Alexa, using white noise and a series of commands not audible to us puny humans. Nonetheless, the technology could be used for darker ambitions like unlocking doors, wire money or shop online.

The idea that voice assistants can be exploited or fooled is by no means new, and many stories have surfaced revealing potential and hypothetical exploit situations involving your typical at-home assistant device.

Over the past two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant.

Carlini and Wagner's research builds on past work that has shown that deep learning for computer image recognition is vulnerable to adversarial perturbation. Amazon and Google use technology to block commands that can not be heard. The researchers hid the command - "OK Google, browse to evil.com" in a recording of the spoken phrase, "Without the data set, the article is useless". New studies conducted since suggest that ultrasonic attacks like that one could be amplified and executed at a distance - perhaps as far away as 25 feet.

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"Companies have to ensure user-friendliness of their devices, because that's their major selling point", Tavish Vaidya, a researcher at Georgetown who wrote one of the first papers on audio attacks, told NY Times. Good question. None of the companies we've talked to have denied that attacks like these are possible - and none of them have offered up any specific solutions that would seem capable of stopping them from working. That could, conceivably, allow hackers to use the systems to unlock smart locks, access users' bank accounts, or access all sorts of personal information.

With these six options, which feature both male and female voices, there are now four different female voices and four different male voices, all speaking in different tones, 9to5google reported on Wednesday. I'm sure you can dream up other scenarios.

The spokesperson goes on to describe Amazon's efforts at keeping the line of voice-activated Echo smart speakers secure, which they say includes "disallowing third party application installation on the device, rigorous security reviews, secure software development requirements and encryption of communication between Echo, the Alexa App and Amazon servers".

According to Carlini, there is no evidence that attackers have started using this method in the real world.

Alexa, Siri, And Google Assistant Follow Malicious Voice Commands Hidden In Music