Science 3 min read

How This app Uses Your Smart Phone Compass Against Voice Hacking

Studiostoks |

Studiostoks |

A team of engineers presented a specially designed app, using a smartphone’s magnetometer, that can stop voice hacking and machine voice impersonation attempts.

Recently, internet-based tech giants have launched many different smart AI-assistant, voice-controlled systems. While devices and apps based on speech recognition technology are convenient and offer many practical solutions, they are, however, still exposed to the simplest security breaches.

New phone app uses existing magnetometer to stop voice hackingClick To Tweet

Researchers from the University at Buffalo sought to tackle this problem and might have come up with a very Industry-4.0 solution.

How Easy is Voice Hacking?

Other than voice-based marketing stunts performed by major companies–the Burger King commercial is a case in point–voice hacking could eventually create serious security threats for users of these new technologies.

A simple audio recording of few minutes is all it takes to copy the voice of any person and to use it at will, and no one is exempt.

A voice hacker could get access to your phone, a device around which many aspects of modern lives revolve.

Lyrebird, a Canadian startup, created a set of algorithms that need only a one-minute audio sample to hack the voice of anyone.

Simply put, a simple telephone conversation would be enough for a hacker to impersonate you. To prove the effectiveness of its technology, Lyrebird put online several audio files on SoundCloud, in which you can listen to former and current presidents, including Barack Obama and Donald Trump, respectively, along with Hillary Clinton, discussing the voice hacking technology of Lyrebird.

Lyrebird (liar bird?) claims its AI software is even capable of recreating certain emotions, such as anger, sadness or happiness.

Using Phone’s Magnetometer to Thwart Voice Hacking Attempts

Engineers from the University at Buffalo might have found an antidote to voice hacking. The team used some tools already available on smartphones, including the magnetometer (used to run the compass), to create an app that can stop voice impersonation attacks.

A prototype of the soon-to-be-available app have been tested and proved to be highly reliable, said the developers who have published a study entitled “You Can Hear But You Cannot Steal,” which describes their solution. The app was also presented this week at the 37th International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS 2017), to be held from June 5th to the 8th in Atlanta, GA.

For a hacker to gain access to your phone, they must replay recordings of your voice. To be able to do that, they have to broadcast the recording on a speaker, which gives off magnetic fields, and in comes the use of the magnetometer.

The UofB system uses the magnetometer, as well as trajectory mapping algorithm in the phone, to detect the dubious magnetic field, and thereby, the hacking attempt.

Now, Buffalo engineers are refining the system in order to make it available for download.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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