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Google Chrome has voice-snoop bug, claims developer

Sneaky microphone switch-on popunder demo published

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A frustrated developer claims that Google is sitting on a bug that would expose voice search to eavesdroppers, and has released exploit code on github.

Tal Ater, whose speciality is speech recognition, claims in this blog post that a site can plant script in Chrome that will allow an attacker to turn on the microphone of a visitor to a site – and leave it open for as long as Chrome remains open.

He has posted the code to github.

When it's working right, Chrome's voice search allows a visitor to any site to ask for voice control, at which point the microphone is turned on – and the user gets a clear indication that this has happened, Ater writes. This choice is also remembered for the future.

However, he says, a malicious site could exploit this by opening "popunders" that users aren't aware of. Here's his description of how this works:

“When you click the button to start or stop the speech recognition on the site, what you won’t notice is that the site may have also opened another hidden popunder window. This window can wait until the main site is closed, and then start listening in without asking for permission. This can be done in a window that you never saw, never interacted with, and probably didn’t even know was there.”

The popunder can also be disguised as (for example) a banner ad – and it won't show the indication that the microphone is listening.

Ater has posted this demonstration to YouTube:

Youtube Video

Ater claims he notified Google about the flaw in September 2013, but that Google is waiting on “ongoing” discussions at the W3C before it acts on the bug. The Register has asked Google for a response. ®

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