Amazon Echo, Google Home & Phones Can Be Hacked Using Laser

The research suggests that people should avoid keeping their smart devices near windows. 

Tech News
2 min read
it’s always advisable to turn the mic off on your Echo device when not in use.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Japan's University of Electro-Communications have discovered they can use lasers to silently "speak" to any computer that receives voice commands, which included smartphones, smart speakers like Amazon Echo, and Google Home, and Facebook's Portal video chat devices, according to media reports.

Revealing results of a shocking experiment, the researchers noted it was possible to make microphones respond to light as if it were sound, which essentially means that anything that acts on sound commands will act on light commands.


Cybersecurity researcher Takeshi Sugawara -- visiting from the Tokyo-based University of Electro-Communications -- along with Kevin Fuand from University of Michigan have found a spy trick lets them send "light commands" from hundreds of feet away; they can open garages, make online purchases, and cause all manner of mischief or malevolence.

The attack can easily pass through a window, when the device's owner isn't home to notice a telltale flashing speck of light or the target device's responses, Wired reported on Monday.

Mics are known to convert sound into electrical signals but they can also react to light aimed directly at them. The researchers used a high-intensity light beam to trick the microphones in the devices into producing an electrical signal as if they were receiving voice commands. This way hackers can also inject inaudible voice commands using light beams.

What’s more bothering is that this method is very easy. According to the research group, all the hackers would need is a laser pointer, a laser diode driver (which keeps a constant current of power supply to the laser), a sound amplifier bundled with a telephoto lens for long-range attacks.

According to the researchers, the experiment was conducted on Google Home, Google Nest Cam IQ, multiple Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show devices, Facebook's Portal Mini, the iPhone XR, and the sixth-generation iPad, and the mentioned devices were found to be vulnerable too.

—with inputs from IANS

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