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Hackers Can Now Clone Your Key Using Just a Smartphone Microphone and a Program

Earlier this year researchers at the National University of Singapore came up and published a paper enumerating how, utilizing just a smartphone microphone and a program designed by them, a hacker can clone your key.

The key, named SpiKey, is the sound made by the lock pins as they move over a typical key's edges. 

The paper written by Soundarya Ramesh, Harini Ramprasad, and Jun Han, says that “When a victim inserts a key into the door lock, an attacker walking by records the sound with a smartphone microphone." 

And with that recording alone, the hacker/thief can utilize the time between the audible clicks to determine the distance between the edges along with the key. 

Utilizing this info, a 'bad actor' could then figure out and afterward come up with a series of likely keys. 

 So now, rather than messing around with lock-picking tools, a thief could basically attempt a few pre-made keys and afterward come directly in through the victim's door. 

However of course there are some shortcomings to carrying out this attack as well like the attacker would need to comprehend what kind of lock the victim has or the speed at which the key is placed into the lock is thought to be constant. 

But the researchers have thought of this as well, and they concocted the clarification that, "This assumption may not always hold in [the] real-world, hence, we plan to explore the possibility of combining information across multiple insertions” 

The study authors further clarified, "We may exploit other approaches of collecting click sounds such as installing malware on a victim’s smartphone or smartwatch, or from door sensors that contain microphones to obtain a recording with the higher signal-to-noise ratio. We may also exploit long-distance microphones to reduce suspicion. Furthermore, we may increase the scalability of SpiKey by installing one microphone in an office corridor and collect recordings for multiple doors." 

Taking the case of the supposed 'smart locks' which despite everything still present their own security issues, the Amazon's Ring security cameras, for example, are hacked constantly, so as it were, as the researchers hypothesize, the hacker could, in principle, utilize the microphone embedded in such a camera to capture the sounds your key makes and afterward utilize the SpiKey procedure to create physical keys to your home.

Google’s Nest Secure had a built-in microphone no one knew about


After the hacking fiasco a few weeks ago, Nest users have been more on edge about their security devices than ever before. The recent discovery of a built-in, hidden microphone on the Nest Guard, part of the Nest Secure security system, has only served to further exacerbate those concerns.

Alphabet Inc's Google said on February 20 it had made an "error" in not disclosing that its Nest Secure home security system had a built-in microphone in its devices.

Consumers might never have known the microphone existed had Google not announced support for Google Assistant on the Nest Secure. This sounds like a great addition, except for one little problem: users didn’t know their Nest Secure had a microphone. None of the product documentation disclosed the existence of the microphone, nor did any of the packaging.

Earlier this month, Google said Nest Secure would be getting an update and users could now enable its virtual assistant technology Google Assistant on Nest Guard.

A microphone built into its Nest Guard alarm/motion sensor/keypad wasn't supposed to be a secret, Google said after announcing Google Assistant support for the Nest Secure system but the revelation that Google Assistant could be used with its Nest home security and alarm system security was a surprise.

“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part. The microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option,” Google said.

Google’s updated product page now mentions the existence of the microphone.

If your first thought on hearing this news is that Google was spying on you or doing something equally sinister, you aren’t alone. Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at BestVPN.com, said “Nest’s failure to disclose the on-board microphone included in its secure home security system is a massive oversight. Nest’s parent company Google claims that the feature was only made available to consumers who activated the feature manually. Presumably, nobody did this; because the feature wasn’t advertised.