Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Xfinity voice remote is reportedly said to have had flaws that hackers used to listen to customer conversations at home. However, the cable giant has said that the vulnerability has been fixed before any harm could be done.
Comcast XR11 vulnerable to hacks
Guardicore Labs researchers managed to turn the Comcast XR11 voice remote into a microphone showing vulnerabilities that people could be listening to your conversations. Although the flaw has been fixed, this is a reminder that internet-connected gear is vulnerable and can’t be trusted. The Guardicore researchers looked into the remote pairing and set-top-box from Comcast and realized that there were vulnerabilities in the system to push firmware updates.
With an RF transceiver, the researchers managed to install malicious software in the remote control. After some fiddling, there were able to listen to customers’ conversations through the remote, which included hearing word-for-word for a conversation taking place 15 feet away. The researchers claim that a 16dBi antenna can attack a handset from 65 feet away with more powerful gear capable of extending the range. This means that before the fix, a hack with adequate resources and time could have listened to customers’ conversations.
Comcast’s XR11 remote among widely used remote controls in the US
This breach is an example of how connected home devices can be vulnerable. Guardicore’s VP of research, Ofri Ziv, said that consumers who are buying smart home devices could not think that Comcast’s XR11 could have been a risk to their privacy. Over the past, research has mainly focused on internet-connected devices like smart speakers with TV remotes getting little attention.
There are currently around 18 million XR11 remotes in the US, making it among the most widely used remote controls. Although the XR11 remote does not connect to the internet, it uses radiofrequency instead of infra-red, making its susceptible to hacks through a radio transceiver. Comcast stated that after review, they didn’t find any instances where hackers exploited the flaw.