A top Whitehouse advisor said that microwaves can be turned into cameras during a discussion about surveillance this week. And since then, “can microwaves be turned into cameras?” has been a popular search term on Google.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to fear the Internet of Things. That ever-growing network of devices all interconnected with each other across that vast digital landscape we call the Internet. Gone are the days where it is only our PC’s or laptops with Internet access. Now our phones, cars, heating, toys, TVs and even our doorbells may all be “connected”.
And of course, “connected” means vulnerable to being compromised remotely.
But that doesn’t mean we need to get carried away. This week in a discussion about surveillance and wiretapping, a Whitehouse advisor, Kellyanne Conway, said
What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately. There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones — certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. We know that’s a fact of modern life now.”
While much of what she said is indeed true, can a microwave turn into a camera? It’s certainly got plenty of people looking tentatively out of the corner of their eyes towards their kitchen.
The answer. No. Why? Because microwaves don’t have cameras. Or microphones. So they can’t spy on you.
We made the answer simple and blunt not only because… well it is, but also because sometimes with the wonders of modern technology it can often seem that just about anything can do anything these days.
But they can’t. Everything still has to conform with… well, the law of physics for a start. And that means that if a device does not have camera technology (lens, image sensor etc.) it cannot be remotely turned into a camera. And if it doesn’t have a microphone (or technology that can be turned into a microphone) then it can’t listen to you.
Devices that do have such featurs can certainly be hijacked and used to spy on you. Amongst the tools found in a recent WikiLeaks dump was something called ‘Weeping Angel’, a tool that turned Samsung TV’s into spying tools. Since those TV’s are ‘smart’ and thus come equipped with a microphone, then it is certainly within the realms of possibility that that microphone could be used as a spying tool. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s a likely consequence.
Microwaves on the other hand? No. Just no.
Of course, if we take into account people physically entering a home and installing a covert camera or microphone, then that’s a different story.
However, when covertly installing electronic surveillance devices in a household, we don’t need to explain why the microwave (a device that omits circuit-busting micro waves) is unlikely to appear on the top of any list of potential hiding places.