Hi Guys,

Researchers have demonstrated how popular robotic household cleaners can be remotely hacked to turn them into microphones. Yes, that is right, your vacuum cleaner could be spying on you!

The researchers, including Nirupam Roy from the University of Maryland and Jun Han from the University of Singapore, were able to tap into the laser-based navigation system of a well-known vacuum robot and recover speech and identify music playing in the same room as the device.

They took advantage of the vacuum cleaner’s Lidar (light detection and ranging) navigation system to listen to conversations. Lidar navigation systems in vacuum robots shine a laser beam around a room and measure the laser’s reflection as it bounces off nearby objects. The robot uses this information to map the room and avoid collisions as it moves through the house.

Here is how the attack would work:

  • The attacker remotely hacks into a robot vacuum.
  • Once ‘inside’ the vacuum, the attacker can access historical and live Lidar data.
  • The attacker then runs the signals they received through deep learning algorithms trained to match human voices (with 90% accuracy).
  • When the vacuum cleaner is in operation, attackers will be able to listen to about 90% of what is being said by anyone in the same room.

In reality, this means that a remote hacker on the other side of the world can listen to you via your vacuum cleaner as you call out your credit card information to someone in the same room as you.

At the moment, there is no easy fix for this type of attack. We are looking into ways Incognito can help, and I will keep you posted on any advances we make. In the meantime, and I cannot believe I am saying this but try and avoid having any serious conversations anywhere near your robotic vacuum. It actually could be listening to you.

Thanks and have a great day.

Max Roberts,
Incognito Privacy Care Team