Researchers have uncovered a way that would allow hackers to control nearly any voice-activated smart speaker.
The researchers discovered this by pointing a laser at a specific intensity at a Google Home, Apple HomePod and Amazon Echo’s microphone using a telephoto lens and a tripod.
The laser essentially tricks the device’s voice assistant so that it responds to the light. Android Central reported that the light from the laser hits the microphone’s membrane, enabling a person to trick the device into responding.
According to the original article first reported in Wired, the light can be transmitted as far as 250 meters. The researchers determined that a hacker could even use an infrared laser that isn’t visible to the naked eye.
It’s worth noting that it’s not exactly easy to use a laser to hack a smart speaker and control it. The researchers said that the hacker would need to use “specialized equipment,” and the device must be in the line of sight for the laser to accurately hit the microphone membrane.
Other devices could also be susceptible to this type of hack, including smartphones, tablets, and any device that uses MEMS microphones and features a voice assistant.
Google and Amazon both indicated they are looking into the research paper, while Apple has not responded to the research claim.
The researchers add that device makers could prevent these types of hacks from happening by “placing a light shield in front of the microphone and having two microphones on opposite sides to hear voice commands,” according to Wired.