French intelligence finds a way to kidnap Siri

News by Max Metzger

The French can now even control your smartphone, according to France's Network and Information Security Agency (ANSSI). In an old, but only recently discovered development (link to pay-per-view article), the French security services can now clandestinely and remotely put commands to iPhone and Android gadgets with voice technology, like Siri.

This scary new ability does have one caveat: It must have headphones (with microphone) attached. By using the headset as an antenna and getting into range, ANSSI can transmit commands via radio waves which, once picked up, are turned into electrical signals.

Because the signals are coming through the mic, the smartphone considers them voice commands. From there the French spooks can have their way with your phone, sending texts and emails and even opening webpages that contain malware.

Using equipment that fitted in a backpack, researchers could hack phones from two metres. Longer range attacks could be possible with more powerful equipment. 

While the chance of your smartphone getting hacked in this way isn't particularly likely, disabling voice activation might be a good idea if you have reason to be concerned about this method of attack. The researchers also recommend shielding your headphone cords to protect against this electromagnetic attack.

Gavin Reid, VP of threat intelligence at Lancope spoke to on this new piece of technology: "Additional functionality, especially concerning user convenience, has often come at the cost of some security. In this case the hack needs proximity to work and is a proof of concept needing specialised hardware." 

He added, "High security government equipment and installations have often come with additional shielding specifically to limit emanations and any covert channels. This attack is less likely to be leveraged by the criminal underground especially with other methods much easier to implement."


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