It is possible to manipulate the headphones (or earphones) connected to a computer, silently turning them into a pair of eavesdropping microphones – with software alone. The same is also true for some types of loudspeakers. This paper focuses on this threat in a cyber-security context. We present SPEAKE(a)R, a software that can covertly turn the headphones connected to a PC into a microphone. We present technical background and explain why most of PCs and laptops are susceptible to this type of attack. We examine an attack scenario in which malware can use a computer as an eavesdropping device, even when a microphone is not present, muted, taped, or turned off. We measure the signal quality and the effective distance, and survey the defensive countermeasures.
Article: https://arxiv.org/abs/1611.07350 by Mordechai Guri, Yosef Solewicz, Andrey Daidakulov, Yuval Elovici