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posted by janrinok on Sunday February 04, @05:40PM   Printer-friendly
from the I-can-see-you-through-the-keyhole dept.

Apparently the bad guys can now use a device's ambient light sensor:

That tape over your webcam may not be enough. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have highlighted imaging privacy threats enabled by ambient light sensors, in a paper recently published in Science Advances. Device users concerned with security and privacy may be comforted by hardware solutions (shutters) and software permissions restricting webcam use. However, researchers have shown visual information can be gathered via one of the common ambient light sensors installed in many devices. These small sensors usually aren’t shuttered or disabled by users and are typically permission-free on a device level.

Ambient light sensors are categorized as low-risk by device makers and can often be accessed directly by software (or malware) without any permissions or privileges. Nevertheless, previous studies have shown such a rudimentary sensor can provide enough information to infer keystrokes on a virtual keyboard and steal a device PIN, about 80% of the time. The new research shows what an ambient light sensor can do when combined with an active light source component – namely the device' screen.

For their experiments, the MIT researchers used a Samsung Galaxy View 2. This rather old and large (17.3-inch) consumer tablet has its ambient light sensor next to the front-facing (selfie) camera, which is still a very common configuration.

[...] The scientists explained that the ambient light sensor reads the light emitted by the screen shining on a person’s face and being partially blocked by the hand / screen interaction. A whole lot of complicated math, aided by AI and image processing technology, was used by the researchers to deliver their results.

Journal Reference: Imaging privacy threats from an ambient light sensor - Yang Liu, Gregory W. Wornell, William T. Freeman, and Frédo Durand - https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.adj3608

Related: Now That Everyone's Using Zoom, Here Are Some Privacy Risks You Need to Watch Out For


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by nostyle on Monday February 05, @02:36PM (2 children)

    by nostyle (11497) on Monday February 05, @02:36PM (#1343125) Journal

    I'm not aware of any way to completely inhibit a built in mic without destroying or removing them.

    My fix is to run Slackware Linux on chromebooks, which pretty much guarantees that audio will not work. Sure, I can make it work when I'm feeling heroic, but it's more convenient to leave it broken and talk to nobody (that's what phones are for).

    For laptops, I use duck tape over the webcams. No light leakage there.

    For my iphone SE that the wife makes me carry, I use a tactical rubberband (#82) over the camera lens. Quick to remove for doing photos. Quick to restore. No stick-em to gum up the works, and it helps keep dust off the lens. Serves as a pretty good shock absorber as well.

    If you have one of those monster phones with 3 lenses, you're on your own.

    --

    Time after time
    You refuse to even listen

    -Beatles, You Won’t See Me

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  • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday February 05, @04:48PM (1 child)

    by Freeman (732) on Monday February 05, @04:48PM (#1343153) Journal

    If you have one of those monster phones with 3 lenses, you're on your own.

    Perhaps one of these monsters would work?
    https://www.amazon.com/Grifiti-Silicone-Chemical-Resistant-Backpacking/dp/B087CBS56J [amazon.com]

    --
    Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"