Towards reactive acoustic jamming for personal voice assistants

Cheng, Peng and Bagci, Ibrahim Ethem and Yan, Jeff and Roedig, Utz; (2018) Towards reactive acoustic jamming for personal voice assistants. In: MPS '18. Association for Computing Machinery, CAN, pp. 12-17. ISBN 9781450359887 (

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Personal Voice Assistants (PVAs) such as the Amazon Echo are commonplace and it is now likely to always be in range of at least one PVA. Although the devices are very helpful they are also continuously monitoring conversations. When a PVA detects a wake word, the immediately following conversation is recorded and transported to a cloud system for further analysis. In this paper we investigate an active protection mechanism against PVAs: reactive jamming. A Protection Jamming Device (PJD) is employed to observe conversations. Upon detection of a PVA wake word the PJD emits an acoustic jamming signal. The PJD must detect the wake word faster than the PVA such that the jamming signal still prevents wake word detection by the PVA. The paper presents an evaluation of the effectiveness of different jamming signals. We quantify the impact of jamming signal and wake word overlap on jamming success. Furthermore, we quantify the jamming false positive rate in dependence of the overlap. Our evaluation shows that a 100% jamming success can be achieved with an overlap of at least 60% with a negligible false positive rate. Thus, reactive jamming of PVAs is feasible without creating a system perceived as a noise nuisance.