There’s an Obvious Way to Hack Your Voice-Controlled Buddy

❝ Siri and Alexa can hear more than you can—and that’s a problem.

You may have thought that you’d be able to hear any rogue attempts to control your increasingly powerful voice assistant. But it turns out that the hardware and algorithms used to control devices like Amazon’s Echo speaker or Apple’s Siri can actually hear commands issued via ultrasound, which is above the range of human hearing.

❝ Researchers at Zhejiang University in China have shown that they can encode commands in high frequency sound that are still recognized by voice assistants. They take a regular human voice and use it to modulate an ultrasound signal—much like the way music can be encoded onto radio waves. Turns out, the mic on devices like an iPhone or Amazon Echo speaker can still detect the sound, and their signal-processing software also picks up the voice signals encoded on the wave.

❝ The researchers say that they have been able to activate Siri to initiate a FaceTime call on an iPhone, command Google Now to switch a phone to airplane mode, and even control the navigation system of an Audi. The same trick also works on Cortana and Alexa, too.

So, erm, those of us who have decided to cover the camera on our computing devices whenever we’re doing something we want kept private had better find easy and portable methods of keeping our devices from eavesdropping on us as well. Something simpler than carrying around a pillow.

Thanks, @SmartAlix

Huge Solar Flare Disrupts GPS Satellites Globally


Image: NASA/GSFC/SDO

❝ The Sun’s impact on weather here on Earth is clear: It makes it hot or cold, it powers air currents, it causes water to evaporate making rain, et cetera. But with our increasing reliance on satellites and electronics, you can’t forget its more insidious effects — and some satellites got a taste of those…

Around 5:10 and 8:00AM eastern time, the Sun let out a hiccup and then a loud belch — the largest solar flare in twelve years. These large events are typically harmless to those on the ground, but this one could have potentially disrupted GPS communication yesterday morning.

❝ The flares came from part of the sun called AR 2673…The two flares fell into the X class of most powerful events, one registering an X2.2…and the second registering an X9.3…This second flare was the largest since 2005, and the eighth-largest on record.

These flares come as the Sun is weakening in its 11 year cycle, and X9.3 is especially intense as solar activity approaches its minimum. According to reporting by New Scientist, the storm temporarily disrupted GPS and radio communications…

❝ Space weather isn’t something you necessarily need to worry about, but it’s definitely something engineers and anyone involved with electronics needs to consider…

There’s even an “oops” moment where the article provides a rationale for Trump’s ignorant maundering about vote recording. Not that facts have much to do with his thought processes.