Researchers at the University of Michigan have proved that it is possible to hack a smartphone with sound waves. The research group discovered a vulnerability that allowed them to remotely control devices through their inbuilt accelerometers. Accelerometers are a type of sensor built into smartphones, fitness monitors and even self-driving cars.
How The Sound Waves Hack Worked
The group blasted sound waves from malicious music files at 20 different accelerometers. The sound waves tricked the accelerometers to think the smartphones and FitBits were in motion while they were not.
This trick worked on more than half of the devices tested, and it enabled the researchers to do a lot of things with the devices. For example, the researchers were able to remotely control a toy car through a connected smartphone app. Also, a FitBit fitness monitor was made to count steps while it was placed at a spot.
The research group published a paper which described their experiments and the possible implications. One of the members of the group, Kevin Fu, said this about the discovery:
“It’s like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass, only in our case, we can spell out words. You can think of it as a musical virus ”.
It looks harmless on the surface, but this discovery is potentially dangerous. Hackers could use sound waves to remotely control your smartphone and steal your data. Also, self-driving cars would be quite vulnerable to such attacks. Smartphone manufacturers and other concerned parties will have to make some software and hardware changes to protect against this method of hacking.