Vista hole opens door to 'shout hacking'

Security honeymoon ends with warning on speech recognition

The honeymoon ended early for Microsoft's Vista operating system, after word spread Wednesday about a flaw that could allow remote attackers to take advantage of the new operating system's speech recognition feature.

Microsoft researchers are investigating the reports of a vulnerability that could allow an attacker to use the speech recognition feature to run malicious programs on Vista systems using prerecorded verbal commands, the company said in an e-mail statement.

The potential security hole was discovered after an online discussion prompted blogger George Ou to try out a speech-based hack. Ou reported on ZD Net on Tuesday that he was able to access the Vista Start menu and, conceivably, run programs using voice commands played over the system's speakers.

The speech recognition flaw is novel and notable for being the first publicized hole in the new operating system since the public launch of Vista on Tuesday.

The impact of the flaw, however, is expected to be small. Vista users would need to have the speech recognition feature enabled and have a microphone and speakers connected to their system. Successful attackers would need to be physically present at the machine, or figure out a way to trick the computer's owner to download and play an audio recording of the malicious commands. Even then, the commands would somehow have to be issued without attracting the attention of the computer's owner.

Finally, attackers' commands are limited to the access rights of the logged on user, which may prevent access to any administrative commands, Microsoft said in a statement.

Microsoft recommends that users who are concerned about having their computer shout-hacked disable the speaker or microphone, turn off the speech recognition feature, or shut down Windows Media Player if they encounter a file that tries to execute voice commands on their system.

Customers who believe they have been shout-hacked can contact Microsoft Product Support Services, the company said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul F. Roberts

Show Comments



Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?