Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online – simply with music playing over the radio.
A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.
This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.
Entries Tagged "Amazon"
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People harassing women by delivering anonymous packages purchased from Amazon.
On the one hand, there is nothing new here. This could have happened decades ago, pre-Internet. But the Internet makes this easier, and the article points out that using prepaid gift cards makes this anonymous. I am curious how much these differences make a difference in kind, and what can be done about it.
Interesting essay about Amazon’s smart lock:
When you add Amazon Key to your door, something more sneaky also happens: Amazon takes over.
You can leave your keys at home and unlock your door with the Amazon Key app — but it’s really built for Amazon deliveries. To share online access with family and friends, I had to give them a special code to SMS (yes, text) to unlock the door. (Amazon offers other smartlocks that have physical keypads).
The Key-compatible locks are made by Yale and Kwikset, yet don’t work with those brands’ own apps. They also can’t connect with a home-security system or smart-home gadgets that work with Apple and Google software.
And, of course, the lock can’t be accessed by businesses other than Amazon. No Walmart, no UPS, no local dog-walking company.
Keeping tight control over Key might help Amazon guarantee security or a better experience. “Our focus with smart home is on making things simpler for customers – things like providing easy control of connected devices with your voice using Alexa, simplifying tasks like reordering household goods and receiving packages,” the Amazon spokeswoman said.
But Amazon is barely hiding its goal: It wants to be the operating system for your home. Amazon says Key will eventually work with dog walkers, maids and other service workers who bill through its marketplace. An Amazon home security service and grocery delivery from Whole Foods can’t be far off.
Amazon has a cloud for US classified data.
The physical and computer requirements for handling classified information are considerable, both in terms of technology and procedure. I am surprised that a company with no experience dealing with classified data was able to do it.
Amazon Key is an IoT door lock that can enable one-time access codes for delivery people. To further secure that system, Amazon sells Cloud Cam, a camera that watches the door to ensure that delivery people don’t abuse their one-time access privilege.
Cloud Cam has been hacked:
But now security researchers have demonstrated that with a simple program run from any computer in Wi-Fi range, that camera can be not only disabled but frozen. A viewer watching its live or recorded stream sees only a closed door, even as their actual door is opened and someone slips inside. That attack would potentially enable rogue delivery people to stealthily steal from Amazon customers, or otherwise invade their inner sanctum.
And while the threat of a camera-hacking courier seems an unlikely way for your house to be burgled, the researchers argue it potentially strips away a key safeguard in Amazon’s security system.
Amazon is patching the system.
For once, the real story isn’t as bad as it seems. A researcher has figured out how to install malware onto an Echo that causes it to stream audio back to a remote controller, but:
The technique requires gaining physical access to the target Echo, and it works only on devices sold before 2017. But there’s no software fix for older units, Barnes warns, and the attack can be performed without leaving any sign of hardware intrusion.
The way to implement this attack is by intercepting the Echo before it arrives at the target location. But if you can do that, there are a lot of other things you can do. So while this is a vulnerability that needs to be fixed — and seems to have inadvertently been fixed — it’s not a cause for alarm.
Amazon has been issued a patent on security measures that prevents people from comparison shopping while in the store. It’s not a particularly sophisticated patent — it basically detects when you’re using the in-store Wi-Fi to visit a competitor’s site and then blocks access — but it is an indication of how retail has changed in recent years.
What’s interesting is that Amazon is on the other side of this arms race. As an on-line retailer, it wants people to walk into stores and then comparison shop on its site. Yes, I know it’s buying Whole Foods, but it’s still predominantly an online retailer. Maybe it patented this to prevent stores from implementing the technology.
It’s probably not nearly that strategic. It’s hard to build a business strategy around a security measure that can be defeated with cellular access.
In the first of what will undoubtedly be a large number of battles between companies that make IoT devices and the police, Amazon is refusing to comply with a warrant demanding data on what its Echo device heard at a crime scene.
The particulars of the case are weird. Amazon’s Echo does not constantly record; it only listens for its name. So it’s unclear that there is any evidence to be turned over. But this general issue isn’t going away. We are all under ubiquitous surveillance, but it is surveillance by the companies that control the Internet-connected devices in our lives. The rules by which police and intelligence agencies get access to that data will come under increasing pressure for change.
Related: A newscaster discussed Amazon’s Echo on the news, causing devices in the same room as tuned-in televisions to order unwanted products. This year, the same technology is coming to LG appliances such as refrigerators.
Amazon Unlimited is an all-you-can-read service. You pay one price and can read anything that’s in the program. Amazon pays authors out of a fixed pool, on the basis of how many people read their books. More interestingly, it pays by the page. An author makes more money if someone reads his book through to page 200 than if they give up at page 50, and even more if they make it through to the end. This makes sense; it doesn’t pay authors for books people download but don’t read, or read the first few pages of and then decide not to read the rest.
This payment structure requires surveillance, and the Kindle does watch people as they read. The problem is that the Kindle doesn’t know if the reader actually reads the book — only what page they’re on. So Kindle Unlimited records the furthest page the reader synched, and pays based on that.
This opens up the possibility for fraud. If an author can create a thousand-page book and trick the reader into reading page 1,000, he gets paid the maximum. Scam authors are doing this through a variety of tricks.
What’s interesting is that while Amazon is definitely concerned about this kind of fraud, it doesn’t affect its bottom line. The fixed payment pool doesn’t change; just who gets how much of it does.
EDITED TO ADD: John Scalzi comments.
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.