New research finds music can be used to hack smartphones, computers and cars

It can be all be done through the manipulation of accelerometers, the motion-sensing chips used in many electronic devices

New research has found that a number of electronic devices – including smartphones, laptops and tablets – could be susceptible to being hacked whenever the user listens to music.

Findings recently published by computer security scientists from the University of Michigan and University of South Carolina has shed light on the alarming possibility, which could even affect the in-built hardware found in a modern car.

The research found that accelerometers – the motion-sensing chip that can be found in many electronic devices – could be hacked using sound waves, with one example being the uploading of a “malicious” music file onto a device. The scientists also found that, once hacked, devices such as the FitBit and a toy car could be manipulated to add steps to the former’s counter and even take over the controls of the latter.


Researchers found that they could hack 75% of the 20 accelerometer chips they tested. Find out more about the study in the below video from the University of Michigan.

Speaking to The New York Times, Kevin Fu – an author of the study from the University of Michigan – likened the devious possibilities of hacking the accelerometer of an electronic device to the piercing capabilities of an opera singer.

“It’s like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass – only in our case, we can spell out words,” Fu said. “You can think of it as a musical virus.”