Could your vacuum be listening to you? Researchers hacked a robotic vacuum cleaner to record speech and music remotely

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A team of researchers demonstrated that popular robotic household vacuum cleaners can be remotely hacked to act as microphones.
The researchers — including Nirupam Roy, an assistant professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Computer Science — collected information from the laser-based navigation system in a popular vacuum robot and applied signal processing and deep learning techniques to recover speech and identify television programs playing in the same room as the device.
The research demonstrates the potential for any device that uses light detection and ranging (Lidar) technology to be manipulated for collecting sound, despite not having a microphone. This work, which is a collaboration with assistant professor Jun Han at the University of Singapore was presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Embedded Networked Sensor Systems (SenSys 2020) on November 18, 2020.
“We welcome these devices into our homes, and we don’t think anything about it,” said Roy, who holds a joint appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS). “But we have shown that even though these devices don’t have microphones, we can repurpose the systems they use for navigation to spy on conversations and potentially reveal private information.”
The Lidar navigation systems in …

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