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Malicious software reconfigures headphones to record sound

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Malicious software reconfigures headphones to record sound
Want to listen to audio on your computer? You need speakers or headphones. Want to record a voice? Usually you need a microphone, but it turns out that your headphones are suitable for this.



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Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have demonstrated proven malware that can turn headphones and speakers without power into microphones. It has long been known that this change in role has become possible. Speakers and microphones use similar components to process electrical signals and sound in very similar ways. Cone in dynamics? This is very similar to the diaphragm in a microphone.

The Realtek audio chipset has a feature that is used in the vast majority of computers, which allows the sockets to perform a dual function. All Ben-Gurion's team needed to figure out was how to secretly switch from output to input, and they could turn the output device into an input device. When testing them, a pair of ordinary Sennheiser headphones worked as well as a microphone, so that they could record the clear sound of the voice of a person who was 20 meters from the computer.

Their tricky hack, in some cases, may not even require connecting to an audio jack: all-in-one, laptops and tablets have built-in speakers. Leading researcher Mordechai Guri confirmed that they are all theoretically vulnerable to the same attack if they have a Realtek chip installed.

Scary, but Guri warns that there is no simple software fix. After all, this is not a traditional vulnerability. The ability to change the port function from input to output is part of the core functionality of Realtek chips.

Protecting yourself is not difficult

No matter how terrible it sounds that someone can listen to you through your headphones, this is pretty easy to prevent. Disabling the headphones or speakers when not in use will prevent this attack. Devices connected via Bluetooth and USB should also be protected from these kinds of attacks, like Apple headphones using the Lightning jack.


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