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posted by mrpg on Saturday April 16 2022, @05:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the hush dept.

You're muted... or are you? Videoconferencing apps may listen even when mic is off:

Kassem Fawaz's brother was on a videoconference with the microphone muted when he noticed that the microphone light was still on—indicating, inexplicably, that his microphone was being accessed.

[...] "It turns out, in the vast majority of cases, when you mute yourself, these apps do not give up access to the microphone," says Fawaz. "And that's a problem. When you're muted, people don't expect these apps to collect data."

[...] They found that all of the apps they tested occasionally gather raw audio data while mute is activated, with one popular app gathering information and delivering data to its server at the same rate regardless of whether the microphone is muted or not.

The researchers then decided to see if they could use data collected on mute from that app to infer the types of activities taking place in the background. Using machine learning algorithms, they trained an activity classifier using audio from YouTube videos representing six common background activities, including cooking and eating, playing music, typing and cleaning. Applying the classifier to the type of telemetry packets the app was sending, the team could identify the background activity with an average of 82% accuracy.

[...] "With a camera, you can turn it off or even put your hand over it, and no matter what you do, no one can see you," says Fawaz. "I don't think that exists for microphones."


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16 2022, @06:20PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16 2022, @06:20PM (#1237507)

    Except for when rouge software uses the speaker as a microphone... can be done in Windows with free software.

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by SomeGuy on Saturday April 16 2022, @06:57PM

    by SomeGuy (5632) on Saturday April 16 2022, @06:57PM (#1237513)

    This is very true. A simple speaker by itself can act as a crappy microphone. Try it some time, it works.

    Speakers with amplifiers, it depends on how crappy the amplifier circuit is. It may or may not leak enough of the signal back to be detected.

    Combine that with the fact that many "modern" sound chips allow users to configure which physical port is used for Mic, Line In, and Speaker, all without any regard for security. So, ANY OS with access to that chip feature can flip around speaker and microphone ports.

  • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Sunday April 17 2022, @11:27AM

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Sunday April 17 2022, @11:27AM (#1237693) Journal

    Does this apply to other colours of software too, or just the rouge colour?

    I think my speaker is black so I am assuming that I am OK.