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Amazon's Echo, Apple's Siri, and Google's Assistant Accept Commands We Can't Hear


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#1 LFC

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Posted 07 June 2018 - 01:43 PM

They have a greater range of hearing than humans which could potentially be exploited.

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Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

“We wanted to see if we could make it even more stealthy,” said Nicholas Carlini, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in computer security at U.C. Berkeley and one of the paper’s authors.

Mr. Carlini added that while there was no evidence that these techniques have left the lab, it may only be a matter of time before someone starts exploiting them. “My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,” he said.

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#2 AnBr

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Posted 07 June 2018 - 03:27 PM

This is part of why I never do anything requiring security with my Droid. That and the wireless part.
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#3 DCoronata

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 06:05 AM

I'm having a problem with this on many fronts.


There are several ways to possibly accomplish this- most cheap speaker.microphones can't deal with high frequencies. So embedding ultrasonic noise that can be converted into some sort of signal, is difficult. So the sounds would have to be multiple frequencies higher than human hearing at very high volumes and some people can hear this and they'd hear the beat frequencies. Of course there's another issue, the command only has to be given once- you might do a "huh, WTF?" when you hear it and you'll immediately dismiss it because you'll just think you heard something. But that horse is already out of the barn.

For hidden signals in white noise, it's astonishingly easy to fix, change the sensitivity settings in the comb filters. They can adjust this in the DSP software that they use and it can be very easily fixed and updated by Google, Apple, Alphabet, etc... This is the sort of fix they can make IN A DAY and they can test it for a few weeks to make sure it works for general release. Heck, these companies have no problems using customers as beta testers (nobody does this better than Microsoft)

The simplest, most effective way and yeah, the most annoying for customers is when anything requiring communications outside of the system is requested, ask "Are you sure you want me to call 945-321-9876?" Security should come before convenience.
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#4 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 06:40 AM

View PostDCoronata, on 08 June 2018 - 06:05 AM, said:

The simplest, most effective way and yeah, the most annoying for customers is when anything requiring communications outside of the system is requested, ask "Are you sure you want me to call 945-321-9876?" Security should come before convenience.

The simplest, most effective way is to just not do voice commands or anything else that uses a microphone. Especially home appliances: if it needs a network connection to some server, I don't want it. There is practically no better guarantee of planned obsolescence than that requirement. Before anyone says that Amazon or some other huge company will maintain the servers to keep you appliance alive, I point you to Microsoft and "Plays for Sure" or Google when they pulled the plug on Nest. Suddenly you have no choice: either replace the appliance or do without an essential home function (and, yes, I consider a thermostat essential. Likewise security and all of the other functions that now require home assistants of one sort or another.)
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#5 DCoronata

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 07:44 AM

View PostD. C. Sessions, on 08 June 2018 - 06:40 AM, said:

The simplest, most effective way is to just not do voice commands or anything else that uses a microphone. Especially home appliances: if it needs a network connection to some server, I don't want it. There is practically no better guarantee of planned obsolescence than that requirement. Before anyone says that Amazon or some other huge company will maintain the servers to keep you appliance alive, I point you to Microsoft and "Plays for Sure" or Google when they pulled the plug on Nest. Suddenly you have no choice: either replace the appliance or do without an essential home function (and, yes, I consider a thermostat essential. Likewise security and all of the other functions that now require home assistants of one sort or another.)

Problem is, that's their whole spiel and take away voice activation, and there is no product!
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#6 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 08:50 AM

View PostDCoronata, on 08 June 2018 - 07:44 AM, said:

Problem is, that's their whole spiel and take away voice activation, and there is no product!

You know, I never considered that aspect!
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These days, "libertarian" is just a euphemism for a Nazi who's afraid to commit.
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#7 Beelzebuddy

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 10:06 AM

View PostD. C. Sessions, on 08 June 2018 - 06:40 AM, said:

The simplest, most effective way is to just not do voice commands or anything else that uses a microphone. Especially home appliances: if it needs a network connection to some server, I don't want it. There is practically no better guarantee of planned obsolescence than that requirement. Before anyone says that Amazon or some other huge company will maintain the servers to keep you appliance alive, I point you to Microsoft and "Plays for Sure" or Google when they pulled the plug on Nest. Suddenly you have no choice: either replace the appliance or do without an essential home function (and, yes, I consider a thermostat essential. Likewise security and all of the other functions that now require home assistants of one sort or another.)
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#8 golden_valley

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Posted 10 June 2018 - 10:11 AM

View PostBeelzebuddy, on 08 June 2018 - 10:06 AM, said:

Simplest is, don't buy one.

Learned that lesson in an AirBnB we had a year ago. We didn't know there was an "Alexa" in the house until my niece talked about her friend Alexa and a smarmy voice comes out of nowhere "How can I help you?" Freaky.





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