By now, you are probably well aware that hackers can crack webcams like the one installed on your computer. With the right malware and a bit of luck, they can, at their discretion, take control and take pictures, record video and audio. This is a frightening scenario that has faced dozens of victims in recent years.
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It’s quite simple to protect yourself from peeping, from those who want to look into your webcam. Just stick a piece of electrical tape when not in use. However, the microphone is not so easy to shield ... and this can be a very serious problem.
You might think that the camera is a more serious problem, but it turns out that a properly placed microphone is the key to an incredibly smart new hacking technique that sounds like science fiction. Researchers have figured out how to remotely spy on a computer screen while listening from a microphone.
No, that makes no sense. Screens are designed to look at things ... so how can someone listen to the electronic images that they show?
This is due to a phenomenon called whistle coils. The sounds of coils are usually the high pitched sounds that electronic components make when they have to do a lot of hard work. Old tube-type televisions and monitors were notorious for their whistles, but modern high-tech LCDs also produce it.
A team of security researchers has found that they can listen to the whistle of the coil using a well-positioned microphone. The raw data that the researchers recorded is not at all like what you need to work on (picture above).
These lines, as reported by Ars Technica, simply represent the intensity of a specific pixel on the display. However, this is only the first stage of the attack. A specially trained machine mind algorithm was able to translate these records. Using this specialized software, the team successfully identified the websites that were currently displayed on the monitor with an accuracy of 96.5%.
It is unlikely that hackers will use such a technique in the near future. There are much simpler ways to track someone's computer activity. Nevertheless, there is potential ... and as we continue to fill our homes with intelligent speakers, connected baby monitors and security cameras equipped with microphones, this type of attack will become increasingly attractive to cybercriminals.