Researchers secretly activate voice assistants

May 18, 2018 10:52 AM

(NBC News) Voice assistants could be taking cues from more than just your voice.

Researchers have been able to secretly activate Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant, making them dial phone numbers and visit websites.

"Humans are not able to hear it, what they hear is the original audio, but these devices are able to pick up the commands that we put in," says University of California Berkeley researcher Nicholas Carlini.

"You could see how this could be a problem for people if somehow they use your smart speaker to wire money or unlock your door," warns CNET's Ben Fox Rubin.

There is no evidence that this development has left the research, but manufacturers are aware of the potential problems it could cause.

Voice assistants are a relatively new technology, and they're seeing rapid growth.

According to research firm ovum smartphones and smart speakers that use digital assistants are set to outnumber people by 2021.

For now it's a race between companies working to secure emerging technology and hackers who want to exploit it.

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