Your microphone – one more thing small businesses need to worry about

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” This astute quote is attributed to both Kurt Cobain, the grunge-wearing, cocaine-snorting lead singer of Nirvana and Joseph Heller, famed author of Catch-22. Regardless of which one said it first (we’re betting Cobain pinched it from Heller, as the latter could have been the former’s grandfather), it’s so chock full of truth that it’s kind of scary. In fact, the statement seems especially apropos today once you realize that for years now, certain government agencies have been using surveillance tools that can give them access to your webcam and even your microphone.  No doubt, hackers with malicious intent, along with marketers, are doing their darndest to utilize these methods too.

Microphones as the target

While there has been a decent amount of hype around the fact that attackers can access webcams, less has been said about attackers accessing microphones. But not only is it possible, it’s easy to pull off and may go unnoticed for extended periods of time. Hackers can use microphones to listen in on personal and business conversations, providing them with just one more way to collect sensitive data about you and your business.

And perhaps even more outrageous than the idea of attackers accessing your device’s microphone is that online advertisers can also access your microphone. They do this so they can listen in on your conversations. Then, using the data collected from what they overheard, then create targeted advertising campaigns. CREEPY! Facebook has been accused of doing just this, although they refute the claims, saying “We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio”. But far too many individuals have reported that within a few moments of mentioning a certain product out loud, the next thing they saw was an advertisement for that very same item in on Facebook. Coincidence? Hmmmmm….

Other tech giants too

The thing is that even if Facebook and other tech giants aren’t actively listening in on your every word, they admit that they do collect ambient, or background, noises. This helps them understand where you are at any given moment, which allows them to create targeted campaigns. And according to Alix Langone in Time.com, software developer Alphonso develops and distributes hundreds of smartphone games that do access the users’ mic. How is this possible or even legal? It happens because somewhere, buried deep in the trickily-worded Terms of Service, users have unwittingly granted the company permission to access their microphones. Many of Alphonso’s games are targeted at kids, who aren’t known for giving Terms of Service and Privacy Statements the attention they deserve. Truth be told though, most adults probably don’t pay as close attention as they should to these important clauses eotjer. Thus, companies like Alphonso can access our microphones. In fact, when you give your favorite apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn access to your mic, they can record you when the app is in use. They can also upload pictures and videos without alerting you, among other terrifying actions. Sure, chances are that they will never use such data. But they shouldn’t have access to it in the first place. And the threat is just as real for business microphones. Hackers are just as eager to listen in on private business conversations as personal ones.

How to keep your conversations under wraps

At Reason, we believe that no one should be allowed to listen in on your conversations, personal or business, and that’s why we have developed a powerful microphone protection feature. It allows you to keep your conversations private. All you need to do is install (or upgrade to) Reason Premium. Once you have Reason Premium you can enable the camera and microphone protection and if there is an attempt at unauthorized use, you will be notified.  You’ll also be able to choose who you want to give access to and who you want to block. If you choose to allow access to an application, it will be added to your trusted apps list. You can manage and remove apps from this list at any time. 

Keeping conversations safe is just another crazy thing we need to worry about in our super-connected lives. Reason makes it simple to keep your words under wraps so you can stop being paranoid.