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Lidar Technology Capable of Hacking Vacuum Cleaners, which in Turn Can Eavesdrop on Conversations

Lidar technology capable of hacking vacuum cleaners, which in turn can eavesdrop on conversations

Lidar technology, housed within the iPhone 12 Pro and the 12 Pro Max, can convert the mobile phone into a secret agent. That means that the conversations carried out by the user can be spied upon.

A few months ago, it was reported how a simple bulb meant to give just light could work against us and hear discussions that were carried out as far as 80 feet away from where it was situated. It looks like something of this sort is set to happen with the vacuum cleaner too.

For those who are unaware, many smartphones these days come equipped with Lidar technology, a mechanism that enables the camera of the phone to detect any object even when there is no light. The Lidar technique estimates the target’s reflection, which is generated owing to the laser illumination. Researchers have determined that this mechanism within vacuum cleaners can convert the complete appliance into a spying agent.

The expert teams affiliated with the National University of Singapore and the University of Maryland have gone on to present a paper titled ‘Spying with your robot vacuum cleaner: eavesdropping via lidar sensors.’ That has been presented after a lot of research done on the topic. The research paper provides an in-depth analysis of the lidar mechanism. The experts involved in this research include Sriram Sami, who led the entire process. He was assisted by Yimin Dai, Sean Rui Xiang Tan, and Nirupam Roy. The complete research process was looked upon by Prof. Jun Han.

Researchers have termed this hack as LidarPhone, which is quite like hacking a computer system. The LiDAR detectors residing within the smart, robot-like vacuum cleaners convert the appliance into a microphone and note the conversations are happening in the background. 

Researchers went on to hear conversations that were recorded for almost 19 hours. They could hear the sounds coming from the speaker of a computer and the TV sound, apart from the regular conversations. The research paper states that sounds are nothing but waves created by pressure. These waves then traverse through the medium irrespective of any vibrations present within the same. A similar mechanism is adopted by Lidar sensors, which could catch vibrations and process the sounds and conversations.

With most vacuum cleaners coming in with microphones fitted within them, it could be a concerning factor.

The lab research results could be accurate. However, when it comes to implementing the same in the real world scenario, these may not be that simple. To record conversations, the hacker needs to get hold of the native network around the target. Moreover, various other elements play an important role here, without which the complete hacking process cannot be successful. These include the noise in the background, the lighting factor, how far the noise source is situated from the target, etc. To record sounds correctly, all these factors play an important role.

Graham Cluley, a security expert, feels that any issues concerning reflectivity would imply that the vacuum cleaner would be recording conversations with a relatively low signal and noise ratio. The research team has done its best. Still, it remains to be seen as to how much this would be true in the real-world.

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