Could Online Videos Hack Your Smartphone?

With their ability to serve multiple purposes, online videos are quite the luxury.

Had a long day at work? Watch a funny cat video. Need to learn something on the fly? Watch a five-minute tutorial video. Need to catch up on today’s news? You get the picture.

But to think that the very tool we use to entertain and educate ourselves could actually cause harm to our smartphone – well, that’s pretty alarming.

This scenario stems from smartphone voice commands. CNBC covered a voice recognition study conducted by Georgetown and University of California – Berkeley to see how voices in online videos, when viewed on a computer, can control your smartphone.

Think about this – if you’re sitting at your computer right now reading this article, more than likely your smartphone is nearby. The same goes if you were watching a video on your computer. Your phone, unless programmed to do otherwise, is always listening for voice commands. (That’s why sometimes when you say a word that sounds like Siri, your phone automatically activates the personal assistant.)

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After months of experimentation, the university researchers were able to find the difference in how human brains recognize speech versus mobile devices’ speech recognition – creating Hidden Voice Command.

Hidden Voice Command – a muffled, unrecognizable voice (described as sounding similar to the sound of Darth Vader by a Georgetown associate professor) plays during an online video.

Most people would interpret the noise as a small flaw in the audio. However, this muffled voice can activate your phone’s voice command to open anything from your web browser to Google Now.

Researchers believe that even other voice recognition-based systems like Siri and Amazon Echo can be activated. Through this, commands to open virus-ridden websites and other malicious attacks can occur on smartphones.

Despite all of this, there is good news. There has been no record of hackers getting their hands on this technique yet.

The goal of this experiment was to prove the vulnerability of voice commands and the importance of securing this feature.

You can secure your smartphone’s voice commands in two simple ways:

#1: Program your voice commands to only activate when they’re turned on
#2: Use voice authentication so your phone activates only when it hears your voice

Securing your digital assets is essential – we can help.

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