Cyber security expert: audio devices 'could be weaponised'

Many people now have smart Wi-Fi-based audio devices in their homes, but one cyber security expert says he is concerned they could one day be weaponised by hackers wanting to cause their owners harm.

Speaking to Wired magazine at the Defcon security conference in Las Vegas, PWC UK's Matt Wixey said it is easy to write custom malware that could cause items like Bluetooth speakers to emit high intensity or high volume sounds.

These noises could harm human hearing on a large scale or even be used for psychological effects.

Mr Wixey carried out an experiment on several everyday devices and discovered headphones, smart speakers and parametric speakers could all be hacked and weaponised.

"Acoustic cyber-weapon attacks could potentially be done at a much larger scale using something like sound systems at arenas or commercial PA systems in office buildings," he warned.

The expert urged manufacturers to limit the frequency and volume ranges on their products, as well as building in alerts that would tell users when suspicious requests concerning volume had been submitted.

Acoustic cyber weapons are also the subject of a study in October's issue of The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, with University of Southampton researcher Timothy Leighton writing that any member of the public could potentially hack devices to cause harm.

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