Hacking of phones and smart speakers isn’t exactly a new idea. But instead of hacking them through the internet or other means involving sound, researchers have found that they can be manipulated using light. Specifically, you can actually give smart devices commands using light. The method, aptly, is called Light Commands.
Researchers have been able to take over Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa devices by shining laser pointers or even flash lights at their microphones. By focusing light onto the microphone’s diaphragm, they were able to make it vibrate as if it was hit by sound. This then sends the electrical signals to the device as it normally would when it gets a voice command.
Smart speakers can be hijacked this way from up to 350 (~107m) feet away. On the other hand, this method can only be done on smartphones from a shorter distance of up to 65 feet (~10m). As for devices, the researchers were able to hijack the iPhone XR, iPad 6, Samsung Galaxy S9, and a slew of smart speakers like the Google Nest.
Granted, it takes a lot of setting up, so it’s unlikely someone will go out of their way to hack your device using this method. This may be the silver lining on the entire detail, as this vulnerability is hardware-based, and as such cannot be fixed with any software update.