Researchers with cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies on Thursday said they recently identified security vulnerabilities in certain Amazon Alexa subdomains that would have allowed a hacker to remove or install skills on the targeted victims Alexa account, access their voice history and personal data. The attack required a single click by the user on a malicious link crafted by the hacker and voice interaction by the victim.
Amazon fixed the issue soon after it was reported, said Check Point Research, the threat intelligence arm of the company. "Smart speakers and virtual assistants are so commonplace that it's easy to overlook just how much personal data they hold, and their role in controlling other smart devices in our homes," Oded Vanunu, Head of Products Vulnerabilities Research at Check Point, said in a statement.
"But hackers see them as entry points into peoples' lives, giving them the opportunity to access data, eavesdrop on conversations or conduct other malicious actions without the owner being aware."
With over 200 million sold globally, Alexa is capable of voice interaction, setting alerts, music playback, and controlling smart devices in a home automation system. Users can extend Alexa's capabilities by installing "skills." which are voice-driven apps.
However, the personal information stored in users' Alexa accounts and the device's use as a home automation controller makes them an attractive target for hackers.
Check Point researchers demonstrated how the vulnerabilities they found in certain Amazon/Alexa subdomains could be exploited by a hacker crafting and sending a malicious link to a target user, which appears to come from Amazon.
If the user clicks the link, the attacker can then access a victim's personal information, such as banking data history, usernames, phone numbers and home address, among other things.
"We conducted this research to highlight how securing these devices is critical to maintaining users' privacy. Thankfully, Amazon responded quickly to our disclosure to close off these vulnerabilities on certain Amazon/Alexa subdomains," Vanunu said.
"We hope manufacturers of similar devices will follow Amazon's example and check their products for vulnerabilities that could compromise users' privacy."