Forget covering up cameras, now your headphones can be used to spy on you

headphones as microphone for hackers laptop girl
Shutterstock
Those looking for complete privacy on their computers have been covering up their forward-facing cameras for years, but now researchers have discovered a different way that hackers can potentially crack into your most private moments — your headphones.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have discovered that all it takes to transform normal headphones into microphones is a simple bit of malware, according to Wired. That is because microphones and headphones both use the same basic pieces of technology to function.

“Just as the speakers in headphones turn electromagnetic signals into sound waves through a membrane’s vibrations,” Wired reports, “those membranes can also work in reverse, picking up sound vibrations and converting them back to electromagnetic signals.”

In order for hackers to transform one’s headphones into microphones, they need to attack Realtek audio codec chips, which are fairly common in desktop and laptop computers. To record audio, they reassign the computer’s output channel as an input channel, using the attached headphones as a mic.

According to the researchers, virtually every computer on the planet could be vulnerable to this form of attack, as the only way to get rid of the vulnerability is to actually get rid of the chips themselves — which is unlikely, considering their widespread use.

While there have not been any major reports of people being hacked this way, those dealing with sensitive information may wish to unplug their headphones or speakers before doing so — similar to how many people cover up the camera on their laptop or desktop computer except when in use.

Those actively listening to music have little to worry though, as headphones cannot record and play sounds at the same time. Heck, playing music while having intimate conversations is also a good way to avoid busybodies in real life, too.

Product Review

Optoma’s NuForce BE Free5 wireless earbuds cut the price, keep the good sound

Taking out all the wires and glossy paint, Optoma still gives its NuForce BE Free5 the goods to play audio better than Apple’s AirPods at a cheaper price. But are these the affordable true wireless earbuds for you?
Home Theater

The white van speaker scam explained, and how it moved to Craigslist and Facebook

The so-called white van speaker scam has been around for a long time, so why do people still get conned on a daily basis? We're here to arm you and your friends with the knowledge you need to see the hoax for what it is.
Home Theater

The best noise-canceling headphones paint your music on a cleaner canvas

Drowning out the sound of babies, jet engines, and the outside world isn't as hard as it seems. Here are the best noise-canceling headphones, whether you're concerned with style, comfort, or sound.
Home Theater

How to buy speakers: A beginner’s guide to home audio

From the difference between bookshelf speakers and monitors to the proper way to audition, our ultimate speaker buying guide has all the information you need to create your own home audio nirvana.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Music

Spotify may eventually allow free users to skip all ads

Spotify is rolling out a new feature that may allow free users to skip ads whenever they want. Currently, the test is being conducted in Australia but if successful, it may be spread to other countries.
Home Theater

Do you need an $8,000 gold-plated digital music player? Sony made one anyway

Sony's new DMP-Z1 digital music player features "audiophile-grade" sound quality and a gold-plated volume knob to let everyone around you know you take your music extremely seriously.
Music

Listen up! These are the best movie soundtracks of all time

Whether you're a lover of beautifully composed original scores or a fan of perfectly compiled background music, these are the best movie soundtracks of all time — from Star Wars to Garden State.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Music

How to convert and play FLAC music files on your iPhone or iPad

The high-resolution revolution is upon us, and FLAC files are a popular way to store hi-res sound. But what if you’re an iOS user? Check out our article to find out more about FLAC files, and how to use them on Apple devices.
Music

How to clean your records to keep them looking good and sounding sweet

Vinyl records are back in a big way, but the sound quality can suffer if you don't keep them clean. Check out our tips for keeping your vinyl and stylus immaculate, so you can hear every note of your favorite tunes.
Mobile

T-Mobile partners with Live Nation, Pandora to offer customers more perks

T-Mobile made a few other announcements today: Not only has the carrier partnered up with Live Nation to provide offers, but customers will also be getting a free year of Pandora Plus.
Home Theater

Let your vinyl sound even better with one of the best phono preamps

Whether you're looking for a quick fix to set up your first turntable or a long-term audio upgrade for higher-quality sound, here are the best phono preamps you can buy that won't empty out your wallet.
Mobile

Verizon Unlimited users can now sign up for 6 free months of Apple Music

Verizon's latest offer stands to benefit both Apple Music and its own subscribers, as the one-of-a-kind deal is likely to be compelling to both existing and potential new subscribers. .