You probably already know that your connected device – smartphone, tablet, or PC – is full of holes through which anyone with enough time, cash and skills can hack in to eavesdrop on you. Your smartphone or PC camera can be remotely activated without you being aware. The same thing goes for the microphone on your phone. Your Contacts, text messages and emails are constant being read and uploaded to the cloud by software (and so can be read by humans who want it badly enough). Now, even audio headphones plugged into your laptop can be used to eavesdrop on you.
A team of researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel have demonstrated how malware can be used to trigger your headphones’ speakers into acting as a microphone to listen in on you. The software they created is called “Speake(a)r”. The idea is that even with the microphone on your PC/laptop disabled or removed, as long as you use a headphone, you can still be eavesdropped on.
What’s to fear with the addition of just one more privacy loophole? Bah. Don’t give yourself high blood pressure over it. We wish the world was different and that these sort of things don’t exist. But it is the world that we chose. We opted for always-on internet and free apps/services and gave out our privacy and security. So, we man up and deal with it.
If You Really Need Privacy
I am no digital security expert, but there are a few basic steps you can take to secure yourself digitally. If you really, really need to have a secure environment for a delicate conversation (you know, like in spy movies), there are things you can do, like:
- turn off the internet
- stick to using a good old no-internet feature phone instead of a modern smartphone
- switch off your phone and remove the battery (sorry if you own a phone with a non-removable battery)
- cover up the camera lens on your laptop/tablet/smartphone
- disable/remove the microphone on your laptop
- do not hand over your smartphone unmonitored to a 3rd party; they can install and activate a spy app on it in a matter of moments
- lastly, do not plug in a set of headphones
Preferably, do all of the above together. Implementing only one or two likely won’t do.