A new discovery developed by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham could act as a trigger to launch dormant viruses on your phone or computer. The trigger requires malware to already be installed on your device, and can activate them with the use of an an unknown and possibly undetectable signal. The signal could be something as innocent as the flicker of a tv or a particular piece of music heard on the radio. The trigger isn’t limited to turning a virus on or off; it can also give it instructions and specific commands.
While the trigger could potentially be installed on any device, smartphones are particularly vulnerable because they have always-on components such as microphones and light sensors. According to the researchers who discovered the trigger, it can be used from as much as 55 feet away. Sharms Zawoad, who presented the discovery in a research paper, stated “this kind of attack is sophisticated and difficult to build, but it will become increasingly easier to accomplish in the future as technology improves.” The purpose of the paper is of course, not to spread knowledge about how such a trigger system should be built, but rather to warn of future threats and inform the mobile industry of how to protect against them.