Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
The new research from Washington University in St. Louis expands the scope of vulnerability caused by hackers that ultrasonic waves pose to cellphone security. Pixabay

Ultrasonic waves do not make a sound, but they can still activate Siri on your cellphone and have it make calls, take images or read the contents of a text to a stranger – without the phone owner’s knowledge, suggests a new research.

Researchers have previously shown that ultrasonic waves can be used to deliver a single command through the air. However, the new research from Washington University in St. Louis expands the scope of vulnerability that ultrasonic waves pose to cellphone security.


These waves, the researchers found, can propagate through many solid surfaces to activate voice recognition systems and — with the addition of some cheap hardware — the person initiating the attack can also hear the phone’s response.

The results were presented at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium in San Diego. “We want to raise awareness of such a threat,” said Ning Zhang, Assistant Professor of at the McKelvey School of Engineering. “I want everybody in the public to know this.”

Zhang and his co-authors were able to send “voice” commands to cellphones as they sat inconspicuously on a table, next to the owner. With the addition of a stealthily placed microphone, the researchers were able to communicate back and forth with the phone, ultimately controlling it from afar. Ultrasonic waves are sound waves in a frequency that is higher than humans can hear. Cellphone microphones, however, can and do record these higher frequencies.

“If you know how to play with the signals, you can get the phone such that when it interprets the incoming sound waves, it will think that you are saying a command,” Zhang said. To test the ability of ultrasonic waves to transmit these “commands” through solid surfaces, the research team set up a host of experiments that included a phone on a table.

Attached to the bottom of the table was a microphone and a piezoelectric transducer (PZT), which is used to convert electricity into ultrasonic waves. On the other side of the table from the phone, ostensibly hidden from the phone’s user, is a wave form generator to generate the correct signals. The team ran two tests, one to retrieve an SMS (text) passcode and another to make a fraudulent call.

The first test relied on the common virtual assistant command “read my messages” and on the use of two-factor authentication, in which a passcode is sent to a user’s phone — from a bank, for instance — to verify the user’s identity. The attacker first told the virtual assistant to turn the volume down to Level 3. At this volume, the victim did not notice their phone’s responses in an office setting with a moderate noise level.


Ultrasonic waves do not make a sound, but they can still activate Siri on your cellphone and have it make calls, take images or read the contents of a text to a stranger – without the phone owner’s knowledge, suggests a new research. Pixabay

Then, when a simulated message from a bank arrived, the attack device sent the “read my messages” command to the phone. The response was audible to the microphone under the table, but not to the victim.

In the second test, the attack device sent the message “call Sam with speakerphone,” initiating a call. Using the microphone under the table, the attacker was able to carry on a conversation with “Sam.” The team tested 17 different phone models, including popular iPhones, Galaxy and Moto models. All but two were vulnerable to ultrasonic wave attacks.

ALSO READ: India is The Bright Spot For HP Inc in Asia-Pacific Region, Says Top Company Executive

Ultrasonic waves made it through metal, glass and wood. Zhang said there is a simple way to keep a phone out of harm’s way of ultrasonic waves: the interlayer-based defence, which uses a soft, woven fabric to increase the “impedance mismatch.” In other words, put the phone on a tablecloth. (IANS)


Popular

Pixabay

Kashmir's natural splendour, with its beautiful valleys and towering mountains, is really unlike anywhere.

Along with the undeniable natural beauty, the Kashmir valley has developed a reputation for adventurous activities like trekking, hiking, and river rafting. Kashmir has maintained its charm, allowing us to time-travel into beautiful destinations which make one forget about the stress and worries of life. The hikes in Kashmir offer adventurers to go on a self-discovery trip through nature's lap over the mountains while taking in the breathtaking scenery that surrounds them on their journey. In addition to the hikes, there are many thrilling adventure activities, like rock climbing, rope climbing, etc. Trekking across the region of mountains and lakes will allow you to experience living in the "Paradise on Earth," and you wouldn't want to return to your regular life after that.

The following are some of the finest hiking destinations in Kashmir:

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Pind Daan at Jagannath Ghat, Kolkata.

The Pitru Paksha starts after the Full Moon day, and this day marks the beginning of the waning phase of the Lunar cycle. This event is roughly of 15-day period, and is of great significance. From this day, rituals like Tarpan or Tarpanam and Shradh are carried out to pay respects to dead relatives and ancestors.

It is believed that from the very first day till the last day, the unhappy souls of the deceased return to the Earth to see their family members. So, in order to ensure that the dead attain Moksha, i.e. to get liberation, family members of these souls quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger by performing the Pind Daan, which includes offering food consisting of cooked rice and black sesame seeds. The literal meaning of Pind Daan is the act of satisfying those who no longer exist physically.

Keep Reading Show less
wikimedia commons

Cubbon Park is a lush green garden at the heart of Bangalore

At the heart of Bangalore city, a large 300-acre space of lush greenery and heritage stands as a symbol of the city's past, present, and future. Cubbon Park is every child's favourite park, every Bangalorean's haven of fresh air, and altogether, the city's pride.

It stands testament to the past, in terms of the diversity of flora it houses. Bangalore traffic in the recent past has grown into a menace, but the stretch between MG Road and Cubbon Park is always a pleasurable place to stop and wait for the signal to turn green. The gust of wind that blows here, and the smell of mud, coupled with floral scents instantly transports citizens to Old Bangalore, where the weather was fine, and the trees loomed over roads with thick canopies that did not even allow rainwater to penetrate. Cubbon Park is also a historical site, and one of the few remaining monuments of colonial heritage in Central Bangalore. It houses many statues and among them, the most famous is that of Queen Victoria, which faces the St. Mark's Square.

Keep reading... Show less