Research demonstrating how smartphones can be attacked through YouTube videos that have hidden commands, was recently released. This research shows that these voice commands are recognizable by the voice assistant systems on smartphones. Due to these voice assistants understanding these distorted and hidden voice commands, task are accomplished without the user knowing.
The research was a combined effort by Georgetown University and UC Berkeley and results indicate how voice assistants understand harmful commands hidden in YouTube videos. As crazy as this may sound, researchers conducting the study are confident of the methodologies used to obtain their results. In this research paper, titled “Hidden Voice Commands”, it was found that it was not limited to YouTube videos but rather various sources that can be used for hacking a smartphone.
So how is this done and what happens exactly? Well, voice commands inside the YouTube videos, are not necessarily audible to humans, but are audible to the voice recognition system in smartphones. When these malicious YouTube videos are played on a laptop or even a desktop, operations on a smartphone, in close proximity, can be triggered from these hidden commands and various tasks can be accomplished such as opening specific webpages or downloading malware. This would take place without the user’s knowledge, allowing your device to be hacked.
In the research conducted by these universities, two models were applied to the study to gather data, referred to as the black-box model and the white-box model. The white-box model tested, made use of voice commands which were completely distorted. In this model the commands voiced could not be understood by humans. With the black-box model, the voice commands were lees distorted and with some concentration humans could decipher these voice commands. This model indicated that humans who had previous contact with distorted commands, was able to grasp the message by hearing it unconsciously.
Since this research clearly indicates that it is possible to hack your smartphone through hidden voice demands in various video sources, researchers have been working on a system that would alarm users should such an initiation of a command take place on a smartphone. At present, researchers confirmed the creation of a system that has 99.8% accuracy in detection are in place.
With voice recognition systems advancing extremely fast, it was only a matter of time that these manifested voice assistants raise some concerns. In current day and time, these issues, especially related to security, are of great concern and with the fast paced enhancements we have seen with these voice assistants, no doubt some re-evaluation may be required.