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Researchers figure out how to spy on your smartphone in a way you’ll never see coming

Published Aug 15th, 2014 9:15PM EDT
Smartphone Gyroscope Security Flaw

One common smartphone sensor that never seemed to pose much of a threat might in fact be the key to eavesdropping on a stranger’s conversation from afar. According to Wired, a group of researchers from Stanford University and the Israeli defense research group Rafael are going to hold a presentation at the Usenix security conference next week that will demonstrate how the gyroscope in your phone can be converted into “crude microphones” which can pick up sound waves in the area.

We typically think of the gyroscope as the tool that allows us to tilt our iPhones and interact with games and apps, but with the Gyrophone software built by the research team, the sensor can be repurposed to listen in on a conversation without alerting the victims.

“Whenever you grant anyone access to sensors on a device, you’re going to have unintended consequences,” says Stanford computer security professor Dan Boneh, speaking to Wired. “In this case the unintended consequence is that they can pick up not just phone vibrations, but air vibrations.”

As it stands, the technology is far less dangerous than it sounds. In tests, the research team was only able to pick bits and pieces of a conversation. For example, the researchers had someone in a room recite 10 digits as if they were a credit number and the Gyrophone was only able to identify 65% of the spoken digits.

The issue is that the team was able to do this with minimal time and money investment and basic knowledge of speech recognition software. Given more time, and access to speech recognition experts, the success rate could begin to climb rapidly.

For more on the dangers of gyroscopes, head over to the source link.

Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.