‘Dalek’ Commands Can Control Your Phone

‘Dalek’ Commands Can Control Your Phone

When it comes to smartphones, voice commands are a coin toss for many users. While some enjoy being able to ask Google, Siri or Cortana to ring someone, google something for you or to just tell you what your calendar has planned for your day. Some researchers from several Universities are warning against the feature given that smartphones can understand and perform bad commands also known as ‘Dalek’ commands.

The researchers included came from the universities of California, Berkeley and Georgetown. The commands tested were distorted sounding similar to the Daleks from Doctor Who, so that they couldn’t be recognised by human listeners to understand. The commands included the likes of making smartphones sharing their locations, call people or even view websites that are compromised with viruses and malware.

The Dalek commands were low pitched and could be hidden behind other background noises, subtly triggering smartphone features. The below examples show just how distorted the commands were, but they have pointed out that the clips may not trigger their phones.

Micah Sheer, a researcher from Georgetown University, stated that “The hidden voice commands are quite fragile. We tried to produce audio files that sit right on the intersection between what a human cannot understand and what a computer can understand”.

In their studies, the researchers found that their attacks worked best against Google’s apps, with Siri being the most defensive when it comes to its understanding of human speech.


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