Discover the eye-opening truth about popular devices that can spy on you secretly. Unveiling the potential risks and vulnerabilities of everyday gadgets, this insightful guide will help you understand the importance of protecting your privacy and staying informed about the potential surveillance capabilities lurking in your favorite devices. Stay ahead of the game and safeguard your digital security.
1. Robot vacuum cleaner
Robotic vacuum cleaners are undoubtedly great household helpers, only they are a potential threat to your privacy. The fact is that the manufacturer or attackers may well use them to collect information without the permission of the owner.
One example is the Roomba i7+ vacuum cleaner. It is able to create a map of your home while cleaning, which helps it move around efficiently. And according to iRobot’s terms, this data is available to its partners – including Google.
Well, it’s just that Good Corporation needs to have a map of your apartment – what’s wrong with that?
At the same time, iRobot vacuum cleaners, driving around the house, calmly take pictures of their owners in a variety of poses, and then send these pictures to data scientists and AI trainers. For example, photos of the mistress of one such robot sitting on the toilet got on the Web. The company calmly replied that the green “Recording” LED was on the vacuum cleaner, which means that everything is in order.
A car is included in one of the Popular Devices That Can Spy On You. It is a good means not only for transportation but also for espionage. Modern smart models are crammed with various electronics, and if someone else gains access to it, the car will tell a lot of interesting things about its owner.
The easiest way to follow the driver is through the navigation system and GPS. Data about your trips and location is collected by the onboard computer and sent to the vehicle manufacturer or a third party to profile your driving behavior.
This is necessary to train artificial intelligence to drive unmanned vehicles.
Another example. Self-driving cars like the Tesla Autopilot, GM Super Cruise, and Nissan ProPilot Assist can drive on highways on their own but require the driver to be ready to take control at a moment’s notice.
And in order to be sure that he did not fall asleep and does not scroll through social networks, but follows the road, manufacturers supply the interior with cameras, lidars, and infrared sensors that monitor human activity and the position of his body.
In Europe, for example, all new car models with autopilot functionality must be equipped with such systems in order to receive the coveted five-star safety rating from the new car evaluation program.
3. Headphones and speakers
Most modern headphone models provide microphones to use for conversations. And some noise-canceling devices also have additional audio input sources. They pick up vibrations in the environment so that the headphones can create an out-of-phase sound that drowns out outside noise.
So, if malware or a hacker gains access to the device to which the headphones are connected, they can remotely listen to the owner through them. In addition, targeted advertising providers can also use this trick.
You let out in private that you had a backache, and all of a sudden, ads for massagers started popping up everywhere.
Even the simplest and cheapest earbuds without any built-in recording systems can be used by hackers or intelligence agencies for surveillance. The fact is that headphones and microphones perform similar functions: the former converts electrical signals into sound, and the latter converts sound into electrical signals. And they can be easily reconfigured to work in the opposite direction.
Security researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel have developed a piece of malware called Speake(a)r that makes a computer’s output jacks act like input jacks. As a result, your headphones and speakers are able to record all the sounds that reach them, even if your PC does not have any microphones at all.
Smart TVs have also become adept at collecting information about the owner. Manufacturers receive data from the device, its operating system, and applications, as well as from gadgets connected to it. For example, set-top boxes like Chromecast, Apple TV, and Fire Stick.
This information is then sold to advertisers, statisticians, and data brokers. They collect real-time information about the behavior, interests, and demographics of the audience – this is necessary to create more personalized advertising.
A study by researchers at Northeastern University in Boston and Imperial College London found that data from TVs and smart devices is sent by manufacturers to the advertising departments of Google and Netflix, even if the user has never launched the last service since the device was purchased.
In addition, these smart gadgets usually come with a built-in microphone and sometimes a camera for voice control or video calls. And these things can also record sounds from your room, even when the TV is off.
5. Smart speakers
Smart speakers with voice assistants can answer our questions, control various devices and turn on music on command. And they constantly listen to their users in order to quickly respond to requests.
The collected audio recordings are sent to the servers of manufacturers like Google or Yandex to train artificial intelligence. Naturally, this data will be used to profile users and show them targeted ads. In addition, information may also be passed on to third parties, such as advertising agencies or data brokers.
For a while, by the way, Apple, Google, and Amazon had divisions of moderators who listened to data from Siri and Assistant. Now, however, companies claim to have abandoned this practice after the recordings of conversations (and intimate contacts) of some users were leaked onto the Internet.
Do you know that Routers are also included in Popular Devices That Can Spy On You? It is pretty obvious that the router is the key device in the home network, responsible for transferring data between your gadgets and the Internet. And it can be used by the manufacturer to analyze the network traffic passing through it. In addition, hackers who gain access to the router will be able to view information about the websites you visited, files transferred, and messages.
But an even more original way to use a router for spying is a technology called Wi‑Fi‑sonar. It allows you to create three-dimensional images based on the radio waves emitted by the router, that is, Wi-Fi signals. It was developed by specialists from Carnegie Mellon University.
A properly configured router allows a hacker to literally see through walls.
Of course, you can’t see any small details on a 3D indoor map created by collecting Wi-Fi radiation reflected from people and objects. But it is quite possible to find out the number of human figures and what poses they are in.
Batman’s locator worked in much the same way in the movie The Dark Knight. Who would have thought that the technology invented for cinema would be implemented in practice?
7. Fitness tracker
Fitness trackers are also considered one of the most Popular Devices That Can Spy On You. These are designed to track the wearer’s physical activity and health. So, if you hack such a gadget, it will tell the attacker a lot of interesting things.
For example, a bracelet equipped with a GPS module can determine the location of the user and track his movements. In addition, the hacker will receive data on the heart rate, sleep quality, and physical activity of the tracker carrier. It will also determine whether the owner is walking, running, or driving a car, train, or bus.
But the most original way of espionage is to track the movement of hands using the accelerometers built into the tracker.
This technology was developed by Binghamton University in New York. With its help, the experimenters were able to correctly determine the entered PIN code or graphic pattern to unlock the smartphone in 64% of cases, the card code when using an ATM in 87% of cases, and computer passwords in 96% of cases.
True, for this you need the bracelet to be on the hand with which you enter combinations – while many right-handed people, for example, wear a watch on their left hand.
8. Smart bulb
Smart Bulb is also one of the best and most Popular Devices That Can Spy On You. It would seem that a smart light bulb is the most innocuous device that can be in your home. It is not equipped with any microphones or cameras and usually does not store PIN codes from bank cards either. Nevertheless, even such simple devices can be used by hackers with proper skill.
For example, computer security researchers from the Check Point Research team were able to hack into a home network using a Philips Hue smart light bulb and install malware on victims’ computers, smartphones, and tablets connected to the same Wi‑Fi network as the light bulb.
The hacking scheme was as follows: a hacker uses a vulnerability in the wireless protocol that controls a smart light bulb and starts playing with color and brightness. The user notices that the device is behaving strangely, opens the app, and tries to reset it.
The smart home’s central hub re-adds the compromised light bulb, and the hacked light gets the ability to spam junk data on the home network and even install malware on the hub.
And even if the light bulb is unable to transmit this kind of information, the hacker will still be able, by monitoring its state, to find out which rooms the victim enters by the way he turns on and adjusts the lights. For example, if a person turns on the light in the bedroom, it means that he is not in the bathroom and hallway now.
So you can find out when the owner of smart bulbs sleeps when he goes to the kitchen to eat, and at what time he usually leaves the house, to go to work. Useful information for burglars.
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