When was the last time you used your headphones? If you are a regular earphones user, then you probably should think twice before plugging them in because, according to a couple of cyber security specialists, your earpieces can easily be turned into an eavesdropping device.
While researching various ways to infiltrate a PC, a team of researchers from the Ben-Gurion University, have discovered that headphones with mic, can be transformed into powerful listening devices. In essence, once you plug in your headphones, someone can pick up your conversation from 20 feet away.
How is this achieved and what does it mean for us? To answer the first question, it all starts with a cleverly-designed malware code that is injected into the computer.
But instead of creating a backdoor, this malware fools your computer into thinking that your headphones were plugged into the microphone jack instead of the regular line in jack. According to the researcher, the injected malware code specifically targets the retasking routing of audio cards running the RealTek engine and codecs.
Once inside it fools your computer by tampering with the retasking routine. This way, anyone operating a link can clearly hear every word you say even you are 20 feet away.
To test out their theory, the team used a pair of regular Sennheiser earphones and motherboard with RealTek audio software. After injecting the malware agent, the team could clearly hear what the person in front of the computer was saying.
Furthermore, to make things even more frightening, the quality of each eavesdropping session is quite high.
Now, to answer the second question, in terms of cyber security, we don’t know what the future brings. Taking into account the fact that hackers always seem to find a way to compromise security and steal personal data, any attempt is kind of futile.
However, the team assured that the eavesdropping software their fashion will not be used in a nefarious way. In fact, the team created this software in order to prove that even harmless devices like a pair of headphones can be used to compromise a person if you know how to do it.
Meanwhile, in order to avoid this type of situation the team has recommended that we unplug our headphones if we don’t use them. This way we will make sure that no one is listening at the other end of the line.
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