Listen. Listening. To hear you talk. To listen to you bathe. Hear you cry. That’s why I hack into your device and switch on your microphone. I want to know you. I need to know.
I bet you worry more about your camera and what it can see. Maybe you don’t even think about that too much. Perhaps you just set your device down and walk away. Nice. You’re my kind of person. You’ve found a secret friend. I can hear everything you do. I can’t wait to meet you… when the time is right.
Modern devices are always on and connected to the Internet. This always-on connection provides an open door to a new kind of hacker — The Listener. Me.
Listeners tune into a device’s microphone by opening a port inside the device. Once they’ve done this, a short piece of code keeps the channel open. As the audio flows into a feed, listeners can sit and analyse all the sounds they hear inside it. You may wonder why they’d do that. Well, it’s done for research. They’re fishing for business. Lifestyle patterns, keywords, conversations, anything that indicates what kind of consumer you are. Your age, sex, location, likes and dislikes — the information is used to qualify you as a customer to big business. They’ll sell your information to corporations — but not all Listeners do it for the money.
Some of us do it for free. I do.
Camera feeds are resource-heavy. Users would suspect a problem due to the lag. Audio-only feeds use far less data, so the lag time is less noticeable. Cameras have an indicator light that tells users when the camera is active. Mikes don’t. They seem passive.
It’s unbelievable, right?
Mother has always been suspicious about computers and their in-built cameras. She’s stuck a post-it note over her laptop’s lens since she owned the first one. She was right. Hackers can see her. Unfortunately, she never considered covering the microphone. They can still hear what she does.
And then there are those other devices we invite into our houses which are made of only microphones and speakers. They are specifically designed to receive and send audio over the Internet all day long: Google Home and Amazon Echo. We sign them in and then pump them full of the sounds of our lives so they can be sent off to somewhere unknown.
Corporations tell us that their smart devices don’t listen when they’re not being used — but that’s not true. Alexa heard a double murder take place (See? Follow the link. It’s real! I’m not making this stuff up!) and her audio provided vital evidence in Court. Of course, Amazon denied they had a recording of the tragic event. Alexa isn’t supposed to record anything, but a tech-autopsy uncovered the real truth. Alexa did hear and record the crime taking place and she is listening to all of us today, recording our private audio and saving it in her servers. We’re only one step away from having machines with complex algorithms analyse the masses of stored audio for God knows what reason. Privacy, laws, and morals, left us the moment we activate any smart e-device in our home and then connect it to the Internet.
In the meantime, there are hundreds of sites that teach wanna-be independent Listeners how to turn on computer microphones from their locations. There are Listeners everywhere, hearing all kinds of information about you through your very own device!
SEETHINGS is about a serial killer who hacks and listens to computer microphones — it allows him to find new victims. When the right one comes along, he moves in for the kill.
The book was written and released recently. It’s genre sits between psychological thriller and neo-noir. The themes are dark, sexy and dangerous. It’s also a brain-bender but definitely worth the ride to experience it all the way to its explosive conclusion.