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Hackers can hijack your Google Home or Amazon Echo with freakin' laser beams

They say they could command virtual helpers like Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant silently and from hundreds of feet away, as long as they had a line of sight to the smart gadget.

A group of researchers discovered they can hack Alexa and other voice assistants with a laser.

The equipment used to carry out the tests was a cheap five-milliwatt laser pointer, a laser driver, sound amplifier, and basic telephoto lens, together costing less than $600 combined.

"We show how an attacker can inject arbitrary audio signals to the target microphone by aiming an amplitude-modulated light at the microphone's aperture", they explain.

As per a report by Wired, by changing the intensity of the laser beam to a certain frequency, hackers can send commands to the microphone of the smart speakers.

Fortunately, there are quite a few limitations as well.

For the second one, the lethality or effect of the attack depends on the level of access you have provided to these assistants to control both the device in itself and other devices connected with it.

Dubbed 'Light Commands,' the hack relies on a vulnerability in MEMS microphones embedded in widely-used popular voice-controllable systems that unintentionally respond to light as if it were sound. Instead of sound, however, an attacker can encode unauthorised voice commands into a laser light beam. "They also tested an iPhone XR, a Samsung Galaxy S9, and a Google Pixel 2".

In order to trick smart speakers, simply shined a laser directly at the microphone from up to 360 feet (110m) away.

Google has taken notice of Sugarawa's work and confirms that it is "closely reviewing this research paper". Apple, however, declined to comment.

At one point, they climbed up 42 meters (140 feet) of a University of MI building to point their laser at a Google Home device.

Unlock the target's smartlock-protected front doors, open garage doors, shop on e-commerce websites at the target's expense, or even locate, unlock and start various vehicles (e.g., Tesla and Ford) that are connected to the target's Google account.

The computer science and electrical engineering researchers - Takeshi Sugawara at the University of Electro-Communications in Japan; and Mr Fu, Daniel Genkin, Sara Rampazzi and Benjamin Cyr at the University of MI - released their findings in a paper Monday. "Protecting our users is paramount, and we're always looking at ways to improve the security of our devices", a Google spokesperson told Fox News via email. Hackers could also use this exploit to make purchases, or really carry out any command those smart speakers recognize.

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Opening the garage door was easy, the researchers said.

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