Google Home, other personal assistants could be hacked by high frequencies

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A Google Home unit is on display following a product event Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, in San Francisco. Google launched an aggressive challenge to Apple and Samsung introducing its own new line of smartphones called Pixel, which are designed to showcase a digital helper the company calls
AP Photo/Eric Risberg A Google Home unit is on display following a product event Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, in San Francisco. Researchers in the U.S. and China say it is possible for hacker to gain access to such home personal devices using ultrasound frequencies that humans can’t hear.

Top of the Order:

Did You Hear That?: If what “that” is is an ultrasound command that can be used to take control of your connected home device like an Amazon Echo, then, no, you probably can’t hear it. But you might want to start listening to what some researchers have to say on the matter.

Apparently, officials in the U.S. and China have discovered a method by which a hacker could use one of these high-frequency techniques to get control of your device, and then, potentially, get access to whatever information you have used your gadget for. For example, if you had asked Google Home to check your bank account, a hacker could, in theory, be able to get your bank account information.

Researchers call the technique similar to how dogs can hear high-frequency whistles that people can’t. Chinese university researchers said they were able to use ultrasound commands to also get into Apple iPhones, Google Nexus devices and even automobiles.

Yes, the thought of someone sending the equivalent of a dog whistle to hack into your home assistant device is more than a little disconcerting. However, researchers at Princeton University said the method of hacking isn’t easy. A hacker needs to get close to a potential device, and use a speaker that can transmit the signal to the gadget that is being hacked before any takeover can take place.

In the meantime, leave the earplugs at home, because if someone is trying to hack your device by this method, you’re not going to hear it, anyway.

Middle Innings:

A Billion-Dollar Binge?: For companies like Apple, spending $1 billion on anything is like sand off a beach. In fact, about three weeks ago, reports surfaced saying Apple had built up a warchest of $1 billion to acquire original TV programming for its nascent Apple Music television show efforts. But, Apple isn’t alone in its TV-program buying plans, as Facebook, too, is said to be willing to pony up $1 billion to get its hand on original and exclusive shows to fill out its grand video plans. This probably should come as no surprise, however, as Facebook recently made a failed bid of $600 million in an effort to acquire the streaming rights to the Indian Premier League of cricket.

Bottom of the Lineup:

Be Free, Apple Watch: In four days, Apple will host an event in Cupertino which, unless everyone in the world in wrong, the company will show off a new version of the iPhone. But, there may be one more thing, too, involving the Apple Watch, as reports have come about saying Apple could unveil an updated Apple Watch that comes with LTE cellular capability. Such technology would make it so the Apple Watch wouldn’t need to be electronically tethered to an iPhone in order for some of its functions to work.

Quote of the Day: “I cannot recall a previous data breach in which the breached company’s public outreach and response has been so haphazard and ill-conceived. — Cybersecurity expert John Krebs, writing about the breach at Equifax, which exposed the personal data of approximately 143 million Americans to potential hackers.

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