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Researchers discover that hackers can spy on you through your headphones

on November 23, 2016, 11:50am

With cyber attack fears at an all-time high following hackings of big brands like Yahoo, many savvy Internet and device-driven users might be hesitant to consider any website or product free of danger. Now, researchers in Israel have identified yet another potentially unsafe device, and it’s probably on very few people’s radars: headphones.

As Wired reports, researchers at Ben-Gurion University have proven that it’s possible for hackers to transform everyday headphones into microphones which can then record audio. The shared electromagnetic properties of headphones and mics are what make the devices something like kindred spirits, as Wired explains:

“Just as the speakers in headphones turn electromagnetic signals into sound waves through a membrane’s vibrations, those membranes can also work in reverse, picking up sound vibrations and converting them back to electromagnetic signals.”

The way a hacker can then make these makeshift mics turn against their owner is through RealTek audio codec chips, which are found inside countless desktops and laptops. Using malware, stealthy spies can manipulate these codec chips “to silently ‘retask’ the computer’s output channel as an input channel, allowing the malware to record audio even when the headphones remain connected into an output-only jack and don’t even have a microphone channel on their plug.” Yup, folks might actually need to think twice about what they say around their headphones.

Presently, “almost every computer today [is] vulnerable to this type of attack,” whether it’s a PC or Mac. According to the researchers, the only way to protect computers going forward is to do away with those codec chips.

Below, watch a video on how to turn your speakers into a mic:

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