PINs and text messages can be inferred from smart speaker recordings, study shows

Malicious attackers can extract PIN codes and text messages from audio recorded by smart speakers from up to 1.6 feet away. That’s according to a new study authored by researchers at the University of Cambridge, which showed that it’s possible to capture virtual keyboard taps with microphones located on nearby devices, like Alexa- and Google Assistant-powered speakers.

Amazon Echo, Google Home, and other smart speakers pack microphones that are always on in the sense that they process audio they hear in order to detect wake-up phrases like “OK Google” and “Alexa.” These wake-phrase detectors occasionally send audio data to remote servers. Studies have found that up to a minute of audio can be uploaded to servers without any keywords present, either by accident or absent privacy controls. Reporting has revealed that accidental activations have exposed contract workers to private conversations, and researchers say these activations could reveal sensitive information like

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Amazon now lets you text Alexa on iOS to ask for things instead of only using your voice

Amazon is testing a new feature for its iOS Alexa app: the ability to type out Alexa commands, instead of having to ask questions or requests by speaking out loud.

a close up of a blue wall

© Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

“Type with Alexa is a Public Preview feature available to iOS Alexa app customers allowing you to interact with Alexa without using voice, meaning everything you can currently say to Alexa can now also be typed using your Alexa mobile app. Type with Alexa is available to iOS customers in the U.S.,” said an Amazon spokesperson.

screen of a cell phone

© Provided by The Verge

The new feature — first spotted by The Ambient — is available for iOS users in the Alexa app. To access it, simply tap the keyboard icon that now appears on the top left of the main menu of the app. The typed-out commands should work identically to verbal ones, although

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Should You Call or Text? Science Weighs In

Like most people, I’ve been doing a lot of texting with friends and family lately. COVID-19 (and the physical separation it necessitates) has made socializing in person very limited, which means I’ve had to work harder than ever to keep my relationships strong and healthy.

But a new study suggests that if that’s my aim, texting may not be enough. To stay close at a time when we all need companionship and support, we’d be better off picking up the phone or setting up a video call—doing something where we can actually hear another person’s voice.

In the study, participants imagined having a conversation with a friend they hadn’t been in touch with for at least two years. They predicted how awkward or enjoyable it would be and how close they’d feel if they connected by phone versus email. They also said which medium they’d prefer to use.

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The History of Donating by Text Message | Innovation

In the summer of 2002, Marian Croak tuned in to “American Idol” every Tuesday and Wednesday night. The inaugural season captivated millions of viewers, and after each episode, fans could vote for their favorite performer by calling a 1-800 number.

As callers excitedly dialed in their votes, Croak, an engineer with AT&T at the time, worked behind the scenes to make sure the system hosting the voting didn’t collapse. The carrier was responsible for hosting the call-to-vote network, and Croak was responsible for ensuring that the system could handle the millions of calls that came flooding in after each live show.

Towards the end of the “American Idol” season, when the stakes were high, the viewers frantic, and Kelly Clarkson closed in on her win, the network was overwhelmed by calls and started failing, leaving Croak and her team to quickly reroute the traffic and save the voting process.


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Voting by text or tweet isn’t a thing. Don’t be fooled

No, you can’t vote by text message. Or by tweet. Or, minus a few rare exceptions, over the internet. 

Most people can vote only in person or by mail. Getty Images

© Provided by CNET
Most people can vote only in person or by mail. Getty Images

If you didn’t know that, now you do. If you did know it, good. Tell your friends.


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The reason I’m writing it is that in the past few elections, hackers and online trolls have reportedly tried to disenfranchise voters by offering false voting alternatives like text messaging, to effectively trick people into not actually casting their ballot. 

For the vast majority of people, the only way to vote is by going to the polls or by using a mail-in ballot

Fooling people into thinking that some technological wizardry like an app, website or text message will record their vote is just the latest gambit in the centuries-old practice of voter suppression. Though

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Text to speech, automation and AI: How Google is backing Middle East news providers

Google has awarded just under $2m to 21 projects in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, following the first Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge in the region.

The move is part of a wider series of regional innovation challenges, and a global commitment from Google News to give $300m “to help journalism thrive in the digital age”.

What is Google looking for?

A key focus for funding is “to support projects that drive digital innovation and develop new business models”. Specifically in the Middle East, proposals were asked to focus on projects that “increase reader engagement and/or explore new business models to build a stronger future for journalism”.

SEE: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise 2020: Tech leaders increase project development and implementation (TechRepublic Premium)

Engagement was defined as a key metric, given that “engaged users are … more likely to convert to paid subscribers”, while the focus

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