Hackers can use your headphones to spy on you, researchers have discovered.
A team of security researchers from the Ben-Gurion University in Israel have a discovered a vulnerability that can enable hackers to turn your headphones into a makeshift microphone and secretly record audio.
Of course, the fact that headphones can be used as a microphone is nothing new as they are built on the same electromagnetic principles.
However, the Israeli researchers took this one step further after they discovered that it is possible to change the code in RealTek audio chips which are used in many models of laptops and PCs.
Without the user’s knowledge, the researchers were able to switch the code from output to input, which “allow[s]the malware to record audio even when the headphones remain connected into an output-only jack and don’t even have a microphone channel on their plug,” the researchers wrote [pdf].
This essentially turned the computer into an eavesdropping device and even worked if the computer’s internal mic had been removed or disabled.
To demonstrate their findings, the researchers used a pair of regular Sennheiser headphones and found that they could even record from as far as 20 feet away.
The researchers concluded that as the flaw lies with the RealTek chip, there is next to nothing users can do to prevent hackers taking advantage, other than completely disabling the audio hardware on their device.
“This is the reason people like Facebook chairman and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg tape up their mic and webcam,” said Mordechai Guri, researcher at Ben Gurion University.
“You might tape the mic, but would be unlikely to tape the headphones or speakers,” he added.
Earlier this year a photograph of Mark Zuckerberg revealed that the Facebook CEO places tape over the webcam and microphone port on his MacBook.
Jonathan is our Google Nexus and Android enthusiast. He is also fanatical about football which makes it all the more strange that he should support Stockport County. In addition to writing about tech, Jonathan has a passion for fitness and nutrition and has previously written for one the UK’s leading watch and horology websites.