Xbox One Kinect microphone “always on” security fears

The Xbox One Kinect microphone – one of the hi-tech new features of Microsoft’s new console – has raised security concerns since it “listens” to users even when the console is turned off.

Technology site The Verge likened the new console to the Telescreen from 1984, saying that the Xbox One Kinect microphone function raised concerns about the information available if the machine were to be compromised by a malicious actor.

The function is part of the console’s Kinect controller, which is now part of the Xbox One package. The new Xbox One has voice and gesture control built into its operating system.

Saying, “Xbox on” to the Kinect will switch on the console – which means that the console must “listen” constantly for commands, even when supposedly switched off. At Microsoft’s launch event in Seattle, demonstrators described the peripheral as the “eyes and ears of the living room”.

The sensor offers a Full HD infrared view, and is so sensitive it can read users’ heartbeats via tremors and colour changes invisible to the naked eye.
The news raised concerns among fans. “I think it’s creepy that you can say “Xbox on” and it will turn on. It means it’s always listening to you,” said one Twitter user.

The Verge suggested that the “always on” microphone could have serious implications for privacy – possibly more so even than Google Glass. “The new Xbox could pose greater privacy implications – especially if the system, which many users will connect to the internet, is compromised remotely by a malicious actor,” said the site.

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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