In an era of digital eavesdropping where hackers employ a variety of means to take over built-in video cameras, peruse personal digital data and snoop on cellular conversations, researchers have finally seen the light.
Israeli researchers report that they successfully tapped into speech & music inside an apartment simply by focusing on a light bulb.In a paper published over the weekend, the researchers said all they needed were a telescope and a $400 optical sensor, which they used to measure barely perceptible light bulb vibrations triggered by either voices or music in the room.
The research team conducted the test by pointing a telescope situated in a bridge towards a light bulb in an apartment building 27 yards away. Capturing the vibrations from the bulb, they were able to reconstruct, with a fair degree of fidelity, “Let It Be” by the Beatles, “Clocks” by Coldplay and a snippet of a speech by President Trump.”We can show how fluctuations in the air pressure on the surface of the hanging bulb (in response to sound), which cause the bulb to vibrate very slightly (a millidegree vibration), can be exploited by eavesdroppers to recover speech and singing, passively, externally, and in real time,” the researchers said.
They noted that a direct line of sight to the bulb is required; lampshades or window curtains will prevent it from working. Also, the test sounds were played at maximum volume.
The approach, called ” lamphone,” is an improvement over recent developments in eavesdropping technology.“Any sound in the room can be recovered from the room with no requirement to hack anything and no device in the room,” explained Ben Nassi, a developer of the program and researcher at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “You just need line of sight to a hanging bulb, and this is it.”
Previous comparable approaches include the memorable 2014 “visual microphone” developed by MIT, Microsoft and Adobe that reconstructed speech and music from a room by analyzing micro-vibrations from a bag of potato chips sitting on a table. While impressive, the device required massive computational power and much time to analyze recorded vibrations. Lamphone can be conducted in real time.