KoolSpan U: Weekly Word Wednesday – Audio Hacking

Up until recently, it was believed that isolated devices with no internet or phone connection were unhackable without direct, physical access. However, a recent study from the German Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information, Processing and Ergonomics, revealed that audio hacking, the ability to infiltrate a computer using nothing more than sound waves, could have a huge impact on computer security moving forward. The researchers proved that the sound-based technique is indeed possible by successfully hacking into a computer via its microphone and speakers, and transmitting encryption keys, text files and passwords to their own devices.

The study utilized sounds inaudible to human ears, although audible sounds should also theoretically work. They also tested the range of distance for which the hacking remains effective, and found that they could obtain the information from up to 65 feet away. Wireless mesh networks unsurprisingly enabled the transmission of data over even longer distances.

Audio hacking provides a dangerous new loophole for hackers to access isolated computers and brings up the question of how to defend against this new kind of attack. For computers with highly confidential information, sound filtering has been proposed as a way to prevent the audio hacks. Otherwise, it is recommended that users simply disable the audio feature on their device.