Speech Recognition deleted my homework

"Speech Recognition deleted my homework."

I would not be surprised if some student goes and uses this as a reason for not being able to hand in his/her homework. Let us see how and why it may happen in the near future.

It is written in the news today (1 Feb 2007) that Windows Vista has a problem with its speech recognition[1]. I would not call it a hole, more like very good programming. So good that the PC can pick up commands coming out of the speakers connected to it. The comment I really liked about the BBC article is that

"in order for the flaw to be exploited the speech recognition feature would need to be activated and configured and both microphone and speakers would have to be switched on."[1]

Now we all know that when we use speech recognition or even to make a call using VOIP, both microphone and our PC speakers are on. Hence 2/3 of the equation has been fulfilled Now all the malicious MP3 with the commands requires is for it to be lucky enough and for speech recognition to be enabled. I wonder if that would happen if I have been using it recently, 3/3 completed. It is assumed that activated and configured are the same thing.

"The firm also said that voice commands could not be used for privileged functions such as creating a new user or formatting a drive." [1]

The above comment, I believe, falsely reassures everyone that privileged functions can not be used. This means that if I was to open a notepad and dictate my batch commands (DOS Shell), command to save and close it, rename the file to .bat and run it; that would not work? Would the speech recognition program not allow me to tell it to type out “net user UserName Password  /add”? I guess no one has heard of Visual Basic Scripts (VBS) or have they disappeared from Microsoft Vista?

The reason I am writing the above is just to demonstrate that people should be cautious when they hear that a problem exists and that they should not be limited by the examples they have been supplied with. If the problem does exist and if it can cause files to disappear people should pay attention in unplugging unused microphones.

Disclaimer: I do not have Vista and do not know if any of the above is feasible. They are simple examples that demonstrate that just because a command is not supported it does not necessarily mean that it can not be executed in another way.

I wonder what would happen if someone in the next cubicle, in divided office space, run the MP3 file, with the malicious commands, on his speakers on full volume. Would all his colleagues’ files around him disappear? Most likely!

[1] – BBC News (1/Feb/2007): Vista has speech recognition hole : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6320865.stm

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2 Responses to Speech Recognition deleted my homework

  1. theagingfanboy says:

    I remeber that the New Scientist once suggested that annoying users of speech-recognition word processing could be silenced by shouting out:

    File
    Exit
    No

    I wonder if Vista has an answer to that one?

  2. Smock says:

    Let’s hope no one walks through a shared office singing a dirty limerick while you’re typing an email to an important client!!

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