Ya Know Those Stories About People Listening in on Your Microphone? Yup!

Ya Know Those Stories About People Listening in on Your Microphone?

We often hear stories about people listening to you (eavesdropping) using your phone or PC’s microphone even when you think they are not. We usually attribute that to the “tin foil hat” crowd, but, apparently, that might be a bit optimistic.

Researchers at U Wisconsin Madison and Loyola Chicago say that they tested the top 10 video conferencing apps and here is what they found.

IF you are using the vendor’s platform native app, the mute button doesn’t work the same way that the OS muting function works.

Web apps that run in the browser without a local app or use WebRTC controls, turned off the mic correctly.

Software based app mute buttons – well, it depends.

Many smart speaker vendors put a physical button on the device to make people more comfortable that the mic is really off.

The researchers say that they found “fragmented policies” for dealing with the microphone when muted.

Among the apps studied – Zoom (Enterprise), Slack, Microsoft Teams/Skype, Cisco Webex, Google Meet, BlueJeans, WhereBy, GoToMeeting, Jitsi Meet, and Discord – most presented only limited or theoretical privacy concerns.

The researchers found that all of these apps had the ability to capture audio when the mic is muted but most did not take advantage of this capability.

Cisco Webex does transmit audio metrics (but not actual voice) when your mic is muted. Cisco says they changed the way Webex works after they were outed.

The only sure way to disable the audio is with a hardware switch, which some headsets have. Beyond that, you are trusting the vendor.

Credit: The Register

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