How Hackers Can Access Your Alexa by Shining a Laser in Your Window


Virtual assistants can be very useful. However, that same usefulness turns them into tempting targets for hackers, which in turn, means that there is a wide range of parties out there looking into a wide range of ways to protect them from said individuals. Naturally, this process includes coming up with previously unknown ways to hack into virtual assistants so that their manufacturers can implement patches and other potential solutions for said problems.

Recently, researchers found that hackers can use a beam of light to hack Alexa and other virtual assistants, which is rather concerning to say the least. In short, when the owner of a virtual assistant gives a vocal command, the sound waves are picked up by a part of the virtual assistant’s microphone called the diaphragm. There, the sound waves are translated into electrical signals that the virtual assistant can act upon, thus enabling it to perform its intended function. Unfortunately, it turned out that a hacker can use a beam of light to manipulate the diaphragm, thus enabling them to control the virtual assistant by encoding the right messages into that beam of light. The maximum distance at which this can be done is unknown, but the researchers managed a successful hack at 360 feet. Furthermore, they have shown the ability to do so through a window, thus making the whole thing that much scarier.

Should You Be Worried?

With that said, one can’t help but wonder whether the owners of virtual assistants should actually be concerned about this or not. Yes, it sounds rather scary. However, there are a number of reasons why interested individuals shouldn’t be panicking at this point in time.

First, it seems safe to say that this is a pretty cutting-edge technique. Theoretically, it is possible that other parties have already come up with the same hacking method but have never revealed it so that they can make as much use of it as possible. However, even if that has happened, said parties are likely to be very few in number. As such, interested individuals would have to be very unlucky for them to run into it out in the wild.

Second, the parties that have theoretical possession of this hacking method are likely to be interested in something more valuable than the secrets of the average consumer. After all, it is the kind of thing that needs a lot of expertise, experience, and other resources to be used, which in turn, means that it isn’t worthwhile unless it is being used to steal something very valuable. In comparison, said parties going after average consumers doesn’t seem like it would make any economic sense.

Third, now that this hacking method has been revealed by researchers, the manufacturers of Alexa and other virtual assistants are bound to take notice. In turn, this means that they are likely going to implement various corrections as a way of eliminating its efficacy in the future, thus saving their users the need to be concerned about the potential for their virtual assistant to be hacked in this manner.

What Can You Do About This Kind of Thing?

Rather than being worried about this as well as other rare and unusual hacking methods, interested individuals might want to put more effort into more conventional cybersecurity measures meant to fend off more conventional cybersecurity threats. For most people, this is important because so much of our information is now stored in various computer systems, meaning that someone who manages to break into said computer systems can wreak an incredible amount of havoc within mere moments.

There is no perfect method when it comes to cybersecurity, but there are nonetheless some simple and straightforward tips that interested individuals should keep in mind:

Avoid Careless Clicking

It is very common for scammers to use numbers to secure their successes. Basically, they don’t necessarily have to make each of their scams particularly believable. Instead, all they have to do is to make their scams believable enough so that there is a chance that someone who is either not paying attention or otherwise not on their guard will swallow the hook. After which, the scammer can just spam potential victims until someone makes a bad choice at a bad moment. This approach is particularly common when it comes to hackers because the nature of computer systems makes everything easier for them. For example, email lets them send out hundreds and hundreds of messages with minimal effort. Likewise, email-borne traps are designed such that a single click can have disastrous results for unway computer users.

Keep Everything Updated

There is no such thing as a perfect piece of software. As a result, interested individuals need to make sure that the latest updates are installed as soon as possible. This is because updates often contain corrections for bugs as well as other vulnerabilities that can let malicious outsiders gain unauthorized access of one kind or another. Thanks to this, updates are a simple way to make computer systems more secure in exchange for very little expenditure of effort.

Be Careful with Your Password

Passwords are a critical part of cybersecurity. As such, interested individuals should make sure to set strong passwords, meaning those that consist of a long, randomized mix of letters, numbers, and symbols with no pattern to them whatsoever. This is important because meaningful passwords are very easy for hackers to exploit, particularly when they make use of common patterns. For that matter, while it is fine for interested individuals to record their passwords, they should do so in a safe and secure place so that no one can get access to said information save for them. Suffice to say that a sticky note on the computer tower does not fit said description in even the slightest sense.

Have a Back Up

Ultimately, there is no such thing as perfect cyber-security, which is why it is a good idea to have back-ups of the most critical information. For absolute security when protecting information is particularly important, follow the 3-2-1 rule. Essentially, this means having three different copies of the backed-up information that are stored at two separate locations, with one of the locations being off-site. This way, even if disaster strikes, interested individuals can restore their computer systems with the utmost speed, thus minimizing potential disruptions.

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