Researchers show Alexa “skill squatting” could hijack voice commands

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a paper presented at USENIX Security Symposium in Baltimore this month) is currently limited to the Amazon Alexa platform—but it reveals a weakness that other voice platforms will have to resolve as they widen support for third-party applications. Ars met with the UIUC team (which is comprised of Deepak Kumar, Riccardo Paccagnella, Paul Murley, Eric Hennenfent, Joshua Mason, Assistant Professor Adam Bates, and Professor Michael Bailey) at USENIX Security. We talked about their research and the potential for other threats posed by voice-based input to information systems.

Its master’s voice

There have been a number of recent demonstrations of attacks that leverage voice interfaces. In March, researchers showed that, even when Windows 10 is locked, the Cortana “assistant” responds to voice commands—including opening websites. And voice-recognition-enabled IoT devices have been demonstrated to be vulnerable to commands from radio or television ads, YouTube videos, and small children.

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How to win (or at least not lose) the war on phishing? Enlist machine learning

Enlarge / Coming to a device near you: Freddi Fish 666—the Phishing Apocalypse. (credit: collage by Sean Gallagher from urraheesh iStock & Humongous Entertainment)

StreamingPhish, a tool that identifies potential phishing sites by mining data on newly registered certificates, I’ve spotted an Apple phishing site before it’s even ready for victims. Conveniently, the operator has even left a Web shell wide open for me to watch him at work.

The site’s fully qualified domain name is appleld.apple.0a2.com, and there’s another registered at the same domain—appleld.applle.0a2.com. As I download the phishing kit, I take a look at the site access logs from within the shell. Evidently, I’ve caught the site just a few hours after the certificate was registered.

As I poke around, I find other phishing sites on the same server in other directories. One targets French users of the telecommunications company Orange; others have more generic names intended to disguise them as part of a seemingly legitimate URL, such as Secrty-ID.com-Logine-1.0a2.com. Others still are spam blogs filled with affiliate links to e-commerce sites.

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