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Hackers Can Listen To Your Conversations Through A Normal Lightbulb

by : Lucy Connolly on : 24 Jun 2020 12:09
Hackers Can Listen To Your Conversations Through A Normal LightbulbHackers Can Listen To Your Conversations Through A Normal LightbulbPixabay/Pexels

How many people does it take to eavesdrop on your conversations through a lightbulb? Just one, it seems, as a recent study has found hackers can do exactly that.

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The study, conducted by cyber-security researchers in Israel, uncovered a unique way of spying on conversations by watching a lightbulb hanging in the room from a nearby location.

Dubbed the ‘Lamphone Attack’, the technique enables eavesdroppers to listen in on conversations that are taking place from around 25 metres (82 feet) away – but only if there’s a hanging lightbulb in the room in which the conversation is taking place.

LightbulbsLightbulbsPixabay

So just how does it work? Apparently, by detecting vibrations produced from bulbs as a result of air pressure caused by the sound waves. When the sound waves hit the surface of the room, it triggers small vibrations that can be picked up through an electro-optical sensor that is focused at the bulb.

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It’s this electro-optical sensor that can then be used to pick up on your conversations. I wouldn’t worry about it too much though, because the process seems just a tad complicated, so I’m not sure many people would be willing to put the effort in.

This team of researchers were though, and the process went as follows: a telescope needs to be set up from the eavesdropping point, to provide a close-up view of the room containing the bulb; then, the electro-optical sensor is mounted on the telescope to convert light into an electrical current.

LightbulbLightbulbPixabay

Once that’s all set up, an analog-to-digital converter transforms the sensor output to a digital signal. Then, a laptop processes incoming optical signals and outputs the recovered sound data.

‘Any sound in the room can be recovered from the room with no requirement to hack anything and no device in the room,’ the researchers said in their study, as per VICE. ‘You just need line of sight to a hanging bulb.’

While there have been various other suggestions for eavesdropping conversations by analysing sound waves on nearby objects – such as through a bag of chips or windows – the hackers in this study claim their method is the most realistic.

LightbulbsLightbulbsPixabay

Not only can the method be used to spy on conversations, but it can also accurately identify songs using Shazam and SoundHound. In fact, the researchers were able to reproduce a recording of The Beatles’ Let It Be and Coldplay’s Clocks during their experiment.

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However, the method does come with its limitations. First of all, the bulb needs to be hanging and it should also be clearly visible. If there is even a lampshade or a curtain in the way, the method would likely fail.

Also, the conversation needs to be happening in the room where the lightbulb is situated, so if people left halfway through, the method would be useless.

Basically, if you want to give this a go, you have to be willing to put the graft in.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Science, Cybersecurity, Hackers, Israel, Lamphone Attack, Lightbulbs, Now, Research, Technology

Credits

https://www.nassiben.com/lamphone and 1 other
  1. https://www.nassiben.com/lamphone

    Lamphone: Real-Time Passive Sound Recovery from Light Bulb Vibrations

  2. VICE

    Hackers Can Spy on Your Conversations Through an Ordinary Light Bulb