Your Android phone can be turned into a microphone without your permission or knowledge. All that’s needed are the gyros in your phone that measure orientation. Stanford researchers have shown how to rewire them to pick up sound waves.
Together with the defense firm Rafael, they created an Android app called Gyrophone, which shows just how easy it is to get the vibrating pressure plates used by the gyroscope to pick up vibrations of sound at frequencies in the 80-250Hz range – the base frequencies of the human voice.
“We show that the MEMS gyroscopes found on modern smartphones are sufficiently sensitive to measure acoustic signals in the vicinity of the phone. The resulting signals contain only very low-frequency information (< 200 Hz). Nevertheless we show, using signal processing and machine learning, that this information is sufficient to identify speaker information and even parse speech. Since iOS and Android require no special permissions to access the gyro, our results show that apps and active web content that cannot access the microphone can nevertheless eavesdrop on speech in the vicinity of the phone,” the scientists say on the Stanford Security Research website, where they also offer the Android application as a free download.
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