Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri can be hacked using laser light beams. Gender reveal parties are taking a dangerous turn. E-cigarettes may be more harmful to your heart than tobacco.
In a recent CM Risk Alert, we warned that virtual assistants can be hacked using “voice squatting,” which takes advantage of homonyms and common mispronunciations.
Now researchers have discovered a new way to hack Alexa and Siri smart speakers merely by using a laser light beam to give “light commands.” Physical access to the device is not needed to launch the hack, which allows attackers to send voice assistants inaudible commands such as unlocking doors, making online purchases or remotely starting vehicles.
The attack leverages the design of the smart assistants’ microphones, which work by converting sound (voice commands) into electrical signals—and also apparently react to light being aimed directly at them.
Researchers said they were able to launch inaudible commands by shining lasers—from as far as 110 meters, or 360 feet—at the microphones on various popular voice assistants, including Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Facebook Portal and Google Assistant.
The good news is that researchers have identified steps that could help protect against the attack, such as an additional layer of authentication, sensor fusion techniques (such as requiring devices to acquire audio from multiple microphones) or implementing a cover on top of the microphone for attenuating the amount of light hitting the microphone.
Gender reveal parties have grown increasingly popular and elaborate over the years, going from intimate gatherings of family and close friends to social media spectacles that can sometimes have dangerous or even deadly consequences. What began with colored treats or confetti used to symbolize the soon-to-be-born child’s biological sex has now morphed into some people using guns, explosives and wild animals to maximize shock value.
The homemade explosive that killed a 56-year-old woman in Iowa last month was just the latest example. The device was meant to spray colorful powder into the air but instead exploded like a pipe bomb. And two years ago, an off-duty Border Patrol agent shot a target filled with an explosive powder and blue coloring to signal that he was expecting a son, accidentally starting a 47,000-acre wildfire that caused more than $8 million in damage in southern Arizona.
Experts are particularly concerned by the use of homemade explosives, which they warn can be very unpredictable.
A new study shows that electronic nicotine delivery systems, including devices such as e-cigarettes, may be even more harmful to the heart than traditional cigarettes.
The researchers say that “what makes e-cigarettes so harmful to the heart and lungs is…the completely unknown bucket of manufactured products used to form vapors.”
They compared healthy, young-adult smokers aged 18-38 who were regular users of e-cigarettes or tobacco cigarettes, measuring blood flow to the heart muscle before and after they smoked, while participants were at rest, and after they performed a handgrip exercise to simulate physiologic stress.
(Risk Alerts reported by CM Editor Kimberly Tallon)