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Hackers easily turned Amazon Echo into a wiretapping device

Worried Alexa is always listening? Turns out, with a simple hack, she can be.

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Alexa hack A British hacker has turned a paranoid's worst nightmare about Alexa into reality: using a simple hack to turn Amazon Echo into a listening device, without leaving a trace, and stream the audio at another location. Yes, the hack requires physical access to the device. While that's certainly an obstacle, it's not impossible: people performing repairs, dog walkers, babysitters and so forth have routine access to people's homes. Then there are Amazon Echo devices used in public places: restaurants, hotel rooms, Airbnb rentals.

Mark Barnes, a British security consultant, published not only how he ran the hack, but details on someone could do the same. Barnes uploaded software onto the Echo and then gained access to the always on microphone. While Amazon says Alexa only starts recording when people use the wake word: the device has to be on to listen for that word. Barnes' hack allowed him to "...remotely snoop on the 'always listening' microphones," he said in a post for MWR Labs.

The vulnerability doesn't work on 2017 versions of Amazon Echo: just those made in 2015 and 2016. But the hack doesn't affect the way the device runs. In other words? Someone could be listening and you'd never know.

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