Your Smart Speaker Can Be Hacked to Hurt Your Ears

Amazon Echo (2nd Gen)
(Image credit: Future)

After the major AI players agreed to cease human monitoring of your conversations with more transparent opt-out options last week, negative attention drawn to smart speakers finally began to cool down. 

However, the usual suspects have a whole new beast to tackle this week, as researchers have discovered glaring security vulnerabilities that leave your devices prone to a hack that can physically harm your ears. 

Google Nest Hub

(Image credit: Future)

With over 120 million smart speakers in US homes, the potential of a cyber attack carried out through a smart speaker is significant. BBC reported on the findings of PricewaterhouseCoopers security researcher Matt Wixey and his team's experiments to see the ramifications a smart speaker hack could have. 

Successfully overtaking audio devices through a custom malware that preys on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity weaknesses, the team played sounds beyond human hearing capable of causing physical damage. 

One sound's audio force melted the internal components of one speaker due to produced heat. Using noises that are deafening and disorienting against individual users is just the tip of the iceberg. With AI implementation accelerating globally, this issue can disrupt business organizations and venues on a grand scale. 

While the threat is currently nascent in nature, the ease of taking over smart speakers is alarming. Hacks require proximity or physical access to breach a device, which opens the door for hackers to choose the type of audio speakers play.

While a hacker may not be sitting outside of your window in a Guy Fawkes mask waiting to terrify you at night, it is possible for someone technologically inclined to stumble across your device and tamper with it.