Are your devices listening in to what you say? The dangers of audio hacking, and what to do about it

For anyone taking part in using modern technology, it’s likely that you’ll be using a smart device of some kind. Whether it’s a tablet, laptop or a smartphone, you’ll normally have something with a microphone attached to it. Even if you aren’t actively using that microphone, though, there’s nothing to stop people with nefarious intent listening in to what you are saying.

Just as people can hack into your video feed such as your camera or webcam, people can tap into your audio feed and listen in. It’s something that many people might not be aware of or care about. After all, as the old saying goes, if you aren’t doing anything wrong then what have you got to worry about?

But is that really the kind of society that we wish to build?

Where you have to be 100% on the ‘right’ side of whomever decides the laws of where you live? Even if they are nefarious, intrusive, and distinctly limiting to your civil liberties?

Sadly, a desire for upgraded and high powered technology means that many people are happy to let corporations, hackers, and other people essentially follow their every movement. And while some might see the idea of people listening in to your conversations as paranoid, it’s nowhere near as conspiratorial or as far-fetched as it might sound in the first place.

The problem with personalised ads

One aspect of using modern technology is that for ‘free’ stuff we often give up our most precious resource – our data and our privacy. Many people are happy to give away contact details and other important information all to gain access to something like a free article, a free service, or a product they might not have gotten otherwise.

The problem is that with this kind of openness to intrusion, some less scrupulous individuals and corporations use that to their advantage. So, one common discussion around the always-on microphone nature of products today is the topic of whether or not it’s ‘listening in’.

For example, people have noticed for a long time that their advertisements are linked to the things they search about online. And that’s fair enough – search engines absolutely pick up on our previous search history and recommend products to us that chimes in with what we normally look for. But what about when you notice something pop up that you know you haven’t searched for, and instead only spoke about to someone in ‘privacy’?

There are some pretty chilling accounts of this, including from BBC Technology reporter, Zoe Kleinman, who learned of a friend's death through what was essentially targeted advertising. Many people have spotted things they simply know they haven’t search for online, only spoke about to someone else. Is that a sign, then, that our devices are listening in to our conversations?

It’s not only advertising, though

So, if a corporation has the ability to promote things to us based on what we say, as this Reddit user suggests, then the big problem isn’t so much the corporation. That is a problem, but it’s not something that is going to be nefarious – at least not most of the time. Instead, the alarm bells should be ringing in your head for when someone taps into your personal privacy who isn’t a company or a corporation. If companies have the power to do this, then you can bet your bottom dollar that hackers and other fans of invasions of privacy will have the same tools at their disposal.

Many people have found exploits in apps they would normally trust to have put their own personal privacy at complete risk. Malware is available and being used at present to help people get access to your microphone and essentially hijack your audio feed. If you so happen to tell someone an important personal detail, they could have this logged and then used against you in some capacity.

This has been happening for some time, with academic researchers in the UK and Sweden developing a solution that would allow them to essentially hack your microphone to find out key passwords and lifestyle factors. So, this isn’t something being promoted by people with an agenda or people who want to make you invest in something; it’s being actively developed and it’s already out there. This isn’t a ‘what if’ scenario; it already happens.

What can I do to stay protected?

Thankfully, you aren’t alone in this fight to keep yourself safe. For everyone who is releasing these horrific hacks and privacy invading tools, someone else is developing a counter-action. From raising awareness to make people more aware of exploits in major apps to tools being directly made to solve this problem, we have numerous options to stay safe in these worrying times.

For example, popular VPN platform FAST LANE SECURE have created their own Mic-Safe™ solution. This, much like their VPN, is a vital part of protecting yourself and your personality when you are using the internet. This makes it nigh-impossible for someone to break into your microphone and start listening in when you don’t want them to be. It’s a solid piece of kit, and something that should be useful for making sure you aren’t being listened in on.

Without tools like this, we’d simply be at the mercy of software developers to fix exploits. With the number of people involved in such nefarious activity, though, it’s easy to see why there is a natural trepidation about this.

Thanks to tools like Mic-Safe™, though, you can prepare yourself accordingly for what is to come. Making sure you are fully protected might seem like overkill to some, but it’s a better choice than simply leaving your backdoor open and making yourself a target for invasions of privacy. So, keep that in mind moving forward. It might just help you to protect yourself from a serious hacking attempt!

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