Ben Gurion University

Lighting lamps make it easy to listen to conversations in the room


Technology is leaving less room for privacy. Sensors appear that are able to remotely and covertly capture video and sound even where, it would seem, citizens are reliably hidden from the eyes of strangers – in their own houses and apartments. A new study by Israeli security experts showed that you can eavesdrop on a conversation in a room by the vibrations of a light bulb using publicly available tools.

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The study was conducted by scientists from Ben-Gurion University and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. They developed and in practice showed that using a telescope, a photodiode and a laptop with popular sound processing programs, you can remotely listen to what is being said in an isolated room.

However, the proposed method under the speaking name “Lamphone” has a limitation. The system captures signals so far only from a lamp hanging lonely from the ceiling. A lamp in a decorative lamp or hidden light sources will not allow you to record a private conversation. At the same time, the researchers promise to continue experiments with light sources, which may turn out to be a weak link in the security system.

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The method proposed by Israeli scientists relies on the fact that sound waves cause surface vibrations in the conversation area. Accordingly, the light bulb under the ceiling also begins to vibrate to the beat of the conversation or music. The subtlety of using a lamp is that it begins to modulate the luminous glow, which even in “homeopathic doses” can be detected by modern photosensors (though attached to an amateur telescope).

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This also means that for the inverse conversion of light into sound, some especially powerful computational algorithms and resources will not be required. Everything works almost out of the box, and is available to a wide range of novice spies. This is precisely the danger of the proposed method. Privacy can be compromised for a very wide range of people.

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