Your Microphone – One More Thing 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.

Today, with all our smartphones, crazy IoT devices (think Internet-connected toothbrushes) and Alexas on every kitchen counter, you may find yourself wondering if any of those beloved pieces of tech are doing more harm than good. Before you dismiss the thought as well, kind of paranoid, realize that it has been proven that certain government agencies have been using surveillance tools for years that can provide them with access to your webcam and even your microphone. You can be sure that attackers 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. They can listen in on conversations, providing them with just one more way to collect sensitive data about you and your loved ones.

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….

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 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. 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, and completely unwarranted actions. Sure, chances are that they will never use such data. But they shouldn’t have access to it in the first place.

How to Keep Your Conversations Under Wraps

At Reason, we believe that no one should be allowed to listen in on your private conversations and that’s why we have developed a powerful microphone protection feature. It allows you to keep your conversations private and can be set up in just a few simple steps:

  1. Go to Reason’s website 
  2. Click on the “Microphone Protection” option 
  3. Upgrade to Reason Premium. If you already have a Reason Premium license, click the “I already have a license” link.
  4. Insert the activation code in the “License Settings” screen, by clicking the settings icon on the top right and navigation to the license section. The lock icon will disappear from the microphone protection feature icon (and all the other Premium features too! Lucky you!).
  5. Click the on feature to display a screen where you can decide whether to turn the feature on or off. If you choose to enable the feature, whenever there is an attempt to use the microphone, it will be shown in the microphone usage section. If you trust the application, click “allow”, which stops Reason antivirus from displaying future messages regarding this application. By clicking “allow”, the application will be added to your trusted apps list. You can manage and remove apps from this list at any time you wish. You can choose to monitor all unknown apps and will be informed each time your microphone is used by unknown apps, or you can monitor all microphone access attempts and will be informed each time your microphone is used.

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

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