back to article Troll it your way: Burger King ad tries to hijack Google Home gadgets

Artery-attacking mega-chain Burger King has thrown up a new online advertisement designed to hijack nearby Google Home gizmos. The ad features a bloke in the usual Burger King employee garb holding the chain's signature gut-buster sandwich. Saying the fifteen-second spot will not allow enough time to fully explain the virtues …

  1. Steven Raith
    Thumb Up

    Computer Misuse Act?

    Isn't this the equivalent of unauthorised use of your computer?

    It's effectively the same as leaning over to your desk, and typing in a search request. Yes, it might not be illegal, but it's unauthorised use of your system, and as it appears to be an auto-roll ad, it's likely unavoidable to the layman without an adblocker/noscript.

    It's been a while since I read it in depth - anyone got an opinion on this? I'd be very interested to hear whether I am (or how far I am) off the mark on this.

    That, and it's just a plain interesting idea that's tickling my brain.

    El Reg Commentards - entertain me, you lovely misanthropes!

    Steven R

    1. Grikath Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Computer Misuse Act?

      The easiest answer to that one is:

      If you leave your device open to the point where the voice of a random stranger can activate it.... Well.... start with Schadenfreude and work up from there..

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Computer Misuse Act?

        Grikath, I tend to agree with you to a large extent - it's more a point of interest on the legalities of it than me calling to arms the EFF and demanding that BK get sued into the middle of next week.

        Steven "distracting himself from other more annoying, less fun things with this" R

        Edit, because I missed the window on the original post - by 'not illegal' I was thinking 'not quite the same as breaking into an office' or hacking a network, but the unauthorised use/exploitation of a known feature on many devices is not massively dissimilar, no?

      2. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Computer Misuse Act?

        "If you leave your device open to the point where the voice of a random stranger can activate it"

        Let's translate that statement to other crimes and see how sensible it is:

        "If you leave your car unlocked where any random stranger can drive off in it"

        Nope, still TWOC.

        "If you leave your door open to the point where a random stranger can walk in and take your stuff"

        Nope, still burglary.

        "If you go out after dark where any random stranger can grab you off the street"

        Nope, still assault.

        "If you leave your child unattended playing in the street where any random stranger can take them"

        Nope, still kidnap.

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          Re: Computer Misuse Act?

          Hmm, kind of, but would you buy a door with a lock that worked with any key, or a car that just started when someone got into it? There comes a point where you're actively encouraging people to abuse your stuff....

          If your device is configured so anyone saying "OK Google" activates it then how can you complain when someone says "OK Google" and it's activated? Are you saying that people shouldn't be allowed to say "OK Google" around google stuff? It's a slippery slope if we allow Google to take control of our mouths.

          Google need to roll out a voice filter so that these things respond to recognised users and not everyone within earshot. (Or just get rid of the creepy listening crap. God knows I've tried to disable it on my new android phone but it still kept fucking chiming in last time I was using it for navigation....)

          1. Steven Raith

            Re: Computer Misuse Act?

            Interesting aside, I hear google has blocked the specific frequency of this ad to prevent it from working.

            Clickity

            So I'm guessing someone there kind of agrees with me/us, at least to some degree...

            Steven R

          2. MyffyW Silver badge

            Re: Computer Misuse Act?

            I think most of us can agree this is a shitty thing to do.

            I get my saturated fat allowance elsewhere - largely because most Burger King outlets have the cleanliness of a public lavatory combined with the public service ethos of a 1980s labour exchange.

          3. F0rdPrefect

            Re: Computer Misuse Act?

            "Hmm, kind of, but would you buy a door with a lock that worked with any key, or a car that just started when someone got into it?"

            I used to have a car with doors like that, a MkII Ford Escort. Could be opened with any Ford key of the era. And the key would start it, same as mine would start other Fords.

            "Google need to roll out a voice filter so that these things respond to recognised users and not everyone within earshot. (Or just get rid of the creepy listening crap. God knows I've tried to disable it on my new android phone but it still kept fucking chiming in last time I was using it for navigation....)"

            Stop the Google App. Works for me.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Computer Misuse Act?

          Doesn't burglary require forced entry? An open door wouldn't fit the bill and the bill would charge with simple theft.

          1. nijam

            Re: Computer Misuse Act?

            > Doesn't burglary require forced entry?

            No.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Computer Misuse Act?

              Shout through the open window "OK Google, open my front door".

        3. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: Computer Misuse Act?

          "Let's translate that statement to other crimes and see how sensible it is:"

          While it's true that those are still all crimes, it's worth noting that the consequences can be very different. If someone breaks into your house and steals stuff, that's burglary and your insurance will pay to replace everything. If you leave your door open and someone walks in and steals stuff, that's burglary and your insurance will laugh in your face if you try to claim for it. Just because something is illegal doesn't mean you don't need to take steps to prevent it, and the consequences of not doing so can range anywhere from simply not getting much sympathy to being criminally liable in some way yourself (leaving a child unattended can be criminal neglect, for example).

          There are essentially three separate questions - is it illegal for someone else to do something, is it required for you to take steps to prevent that something, and is it a sensible idea for you to take said steps? When it comes to burglary, stealing your stuff is illegal, it's not legally required for you to lock your doors but probably is required by insurance, and regardless of any of that it's a good idea to lock your doors. When it comes to voice assistants, it's probably not illegal for other people to shout at your phone, it's not required for you to prevent them from doing so, but it's still a good idea to make it difficult for them and, as Grikath suggested, some of us may not have much sympathy for people who don't regardless of whether messing with their phones is actually a criminal act or not.

        4. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

          Re: Computer Misuse Act?

          pretty sure this comes under more of the "if you transmit or receive on a open broadcast channel others can hear you and you can hear them".

          like that FCC rule that a device "must accept unwanted interference" or words to that effect.

          Alexa is designed to be an "open channel" and explicitly designed to accept incoming voice *regardless of source*. No thought or intent is installed to avoid this-in fact such would actually make it *harder* for many people to use-people who don't want to "whitelist" voices (if such a thing were possible) or limit commands to certain individuals.

          Only difference between Alexa and an analog radio receiver is that the input is sonic instead of radio.

      3. macjules Silver badge

        Re: Computer Misuse Act?

        I believe that the Golden Rule is: if an individual shouts 'Hey Alexa [do corporate thing]' is is called theft and a breach of the said Computer Misuse Act, but if a company does it then it is usually known as marketing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Computer Misuse Act?

      No, Computer Misuse Act is only for bullying curious teenagers.

      This is perfectly cromulent corporate synergy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Computer Misuse Act?

      Smells more like a prank, than a hack. His Master's Voice® is required. Phew.

      "Phew."

      That reminds me; Do NOT smell burritos. Repeat DO NOT SMELL A BURRITO!!1! They don't smell as good as they taste. Trust me on this one.

      The Honorable Mayor McCheese III Esq. PHD, CTO of McDonald's and Professor Emeritus of Hamburger University

    4. dan1980

      Re: Computer Misuse Act?

      Actually, I think this is a public service - just the Alexa dollhouse story.

      People need to realise the inherent vulnerability of having devices in your home always listening for interesting words.

    5. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Computer Misuse Act?

      Techically, sneaking a peak at someone's screen is unauthorized computer access.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Computer Misuse Act?

        Technically Speaking - if that screen is in the public space not only is it LEGAL to peak at it, it is legal for me to take a photograph of it.

        If you aren't in a public space, different rules apply.

    6. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Computer Misuse Act?

      No, it's misuse and abuse of privacy to include and sell these so called voice assistants.

      Prosecute Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon etc.

      1) The Trigger phrase should be user chosen

      2) Should only respond to authorised users

      3) No personal information should be gathered by provider or 3rd parties.

      4) By default, it should only us the internet for searches, look ups etc. Commands to play an item from own media storage, change channel etc shouldn't use the Internet (this was possible on car radios, phones, computers etc 10 years ago).

      1. Def Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: 4) By default, it should...

        ...be disabled.

  2. ma1010 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Makes you wonder

    Who really thinks it's a great idea to have a voice interface that's NOT trained to the voice(s) of the people living there AND that listens all the time?

    Personally, while I occasionally use Google's voice capabilities with my phone or tablet, I keep that turned OFF except when I want to use it. For those who don't agree with me, don't invite this guy over to your house: (XKCD here).

    1. Brian Miller

      Re: Makes you wonder

      There was a vulnerability in Windows voice recognition like this. Applications could be started via voice recognition, and then all hell meanders aimlessly about.

      Of course, I suppose an ad could target Amazon Alexis. At least it's a search, and not instructing the device to place an order.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Makes you wonder

        Open plan office:

        "what's the command to format a disk?"

        > " Format C:"

        "Are you sure?"

        > " Yes!"

    2. Flakk Silver badge
      Trollface

      "I keep that turned OFF except when I want to use it."

      Sure it's turned off. ;)

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Makes you wonder

      >Who really thinks it's a great idea to have a voice interface that's NOT trained to the voice(s) of the people living there AND that listens all the time?

      Interesting, the Xbox with Kinect is generally left running...

      But I can see circumstances where having a voice interface not trained to specific individuals could be 'useful' for example where Alexia replaces a traditional phone and thus might be required to call for assistance, or a hotel - I wonder which hotel group will be the first to install Alexia or a.n.other device to enable guests to control the room.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Makes you wonder

      "Personally, while I occasionally use Google's voice capabilities with my phone or tablet, I keep that turned OFF except when I want to use it."

      Except, of course, that that pretty much defeats the prime purpose of it. It's supposed to be "always on" for instant and convenient hands free operation. If you have to get the device out and switch the voice recognition on, you might as well ust do your stuff the "old fashioned" way.

      FWIW, I agree with you and I don't have Google voice recog. turned on either. In fact, I just don't use it at all. My Galaxy S5 has a decent sized screen, and therefore a decent sized keyboard. I can hit the firefox icon and enter a search term almost as quickly as navigating the settings to turn voice recog on. But then I don't use it for mundane things such as "Hey Google, where's the nearest burger king"

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reddit & 4Chan where are you?

    Haven't you got the power to get some amusing response to the top of the google search ranking for this?

    1. NonSSL-Login
      Coat

      Re: Reddit & 4Chan where are you?

      They are probably too busy thinking on how they can get "ok google, youtube rick ashley never gonna give you up" on to a popular blog or stream for the lolz.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. Your alien overlord - fear me

    I think the point is

    not even Google knows what goes into a Whopper !!!

    1. GBE

      Re: I think the point is

      "not even Google knows what goes into a Whopper!!!"

      I do. Or rather I did back around 1978 or so. I had a temp job working for a company that made frozen meat patties that become Whoppers. My job consisted of drilling holes in 10lb blocks of frozen beef and collecting the shavings so they could be taken to the lab to be analyzed for fat content. The relatively high-fat frozen beef was then mixed with leaner fresh beef (which was also sampled and tested) so that the patties would have the desired percentage of fat.

      IIRC, the higher-fat frozen beef came from Australia and South America, and the leaner fresh beef came from the US midwest.

      There was nothing but beef in the patties where I worked.

      I've seen the patties made, and I still eat at BK occasionally.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: I think the point is

        Well said, GBE.

        In point of fact without any fat most meat is tasteless. The most delicious burgers I ever had were from a place called Fudruckers, but I stopped eating them after a barbecue flare of epic proportions almost set fire to my house when I opened the lid. Turns out they are very high in fat, making them a no-no in my case. Mouth-wateringly tasty but say "fare-thee-well" to thine eyebrows if you barbecue them.

        I found a BK where they make everything using very fresh veggies. I'll drive the five miles out of my way some nights for a quick and delicious evening meal (which is not a belly burster and is devoid of any fried components if you forgo the fries, soda and the "go large" ritual).

        1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

          Re: I think the point is

          "I stopped eating them after a barbecue flare of epic proportions"

          That brings back memories of the cafeteria in the student union when I was a student...

          They had a flat-sheet-of-metal grill on which they cooked burgers and similar, and they would routinely get sheets of flames about four feet high from the burgers. It made ordering lunch more entertaining that you'd normally expect.

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: I think the point is

            Artery-attacking mega-chain Burger King

            I've spent the past 45 years avoiding saturated fat, so I was more than a little annoyed to learn that current medical opinion is that there is no link between dietary cholesterol and arterial disease.

            But what a strange world admen inhabit, where the best way to encourage people to buy your product is to cause them annoyance and inconvenience.

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: I think the point is

              "current medical opinion is that there is no link between dietary cholesterol and arterial disease."

              EXACT-A-MUNDO! And not only that, Atkins-style diets often cause people to LOSE weight.

              And high-fat food tastes good. And doesn't addict you to buying low-portion high-carb "low fat" foods at inflated prices, with oxymoronic brand names like "Smart choice" or similar. And _also_ does not coincide with gummint intervention into the *kinds* of food you eat. (ok I'll stop now, grab my coat on the way out)

              [double whopper with cheese is actually a balanced meal!]

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: I think the point is

      Once upon a time, back in the great and glorious days of the former Thatcher empire (before they managed to completely screw the country up), student life was wild, poor and, on the whole, the costs were met by the tax payer. Students didn't pay any tuition fees and were given money (OK, about £2,800 for the year, that's only £230 a month), housing benefit and reduced poll tax bills. They could even claim unemployment benefit during the vacations. Nowadays, of course, people don't believe a word of it.

      There were those students, like myself, that had worked their way through college (that's the 16-18 institution in the UK) and were determined not to take the piss completely. Thusly, during the long Summer break between my first and second years, I presented myself at the door of Reeds employment agency in Deansgate, Manchester.

      I barely had time to unpack my rucksack when the phone was ringing. "Is that Mr. TRT? Good, we've got some work for you, starting tomorrow morning in a meat packing plant in Trafford Park. Are you interested? £3.10 an hour."

      On my last day there, (I had a new job lined up in a staff canteen in North Manchester), I was given the job of taking the rubbish bags from the packing and loading areas out to the dumpsters at the back of the factory. I was given half-an-hour for the task, and believe me, I needed it! I walked down the length of the Patti-matic 3000. Past the freezing tunnel, past the patty cutter, past the mixer stage, past the spicing unit, wave hello to Clive, past the stage 2 mincing device, past the stage 1 mincing device, past the meat loading stage, a curious bit where variously coloured wheeled trucks were hoisted 30 feet into the air and inverted, dumping their contents into a wide receptacle. Given the previous analogy of this machine to a beast, and the packing end as the mouth, this was presumably the anus.

      I was only half-way down the factory though. The next machine was some grotesque meat chopping device which had rotating knives in it and looked like something from a Tim Burton film. This was stationed next to what could only be the world's second largest microwave, the largest being on top of Telecom tower. The conveyor snaked backwards and forwards through a separate room whilst enormous blocks of meat trundled along, some wrapped in thick blue cellophane. I don't know why they were wrapped in cellophane, but I do know that any cellophane that wasn't easily removed ended up going into the Edward Scissorhand's muff machine.

      I carried on walking past machine after machine, each one having larger and more vicious looking blades, teeth, prongs and spikes, each dedicated to pre-masticating yours and my food presumably because we like it mushed up, but not too much, given the number of machines dedicated to putting it all back together again in easily recognisable shapes such as burgers and sausages. The work stations all had little plaques on them with words like de-boner, scavenging station 3, and reclamation unit 2. This last plaque was on another separate room two-thirds of the way down the production line and I could see a bunch of guys dumping the remains of carcasses into a huge metal tube with windowed sides where high-pressure hoses blasted the meat off the bones. The outlet of this room was a glass pipe pulsing with red and pink mush which disappeared God knows where down the factory [I've just had a thought; it probably led to the canteen as they had something similar looking in the Slush Puppy machine].

      I could see the light at the end of the tunnel now. The back door of the factory. In the sparkling hazy distance I could make out a swathe of green separating us from the Manchester Ship Canal and beyond that the white framework of Old Trafford. I thankfully dumped my two bin liners full of waste into the large rubbish skip. The container was full of gleaming white bones mixed in with the black bags of canteen waste, discarded packaging tape and used vinyl gloves. The flies weren't swarming around these bins, oh no. They'd get more meat licking the surface of the nearby M602 (a particularly dangerous stretch) than from these bones.

      It was at this point that I nearly fell into the skip with fright. I was startled by a sudden and deafeningly loud MOO! about 5 feet away from my ear and as I turned I looked into a pair of soft brown eyes. A herd of cows was munching away on the grassy plain at the raw ingredients end of the plant. I could hold my gut no longer and promptly gave the flies a whole new reason to investigate the skip.

  5. John F***ing Stepp

    I got so tired of this damned app

    That I completly removed it after I got root access on this tablet.

    (If I want something misspelled I can do that on my own)

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: I got so tired of this damned app

      I'm with Jasper Fforde on this one- it should be spelled 'mispeling'.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    I'm getting tired of people constantly playing the victim role...

    People leave their wifi open and get upset because other people start using it. Of course it's those other people who are to blame, right?

    Other people leave their phone set to automatic wifi search and get upset when other other people start (ab)using this. Of course it's those other other people who are to blame, right?

    Other other people leave their voice dictation on and get upset when other other other people actually say something to which the system responds. Of course it's those other other other people who are to blame, right?

    Other other other people install a wireless gizmo, don't bother to set (or change) any passwords and find their network getting hijacked. Of course it's those other, other, other OTHER people who are to blame, right?

    Well... In the last example I tend to fully agree, but in all fairness you could have done a better job as well in securing your stuff. Comparable to leaving your front door fully open and then get upset that some people simply walk in. Sure, you got a good reason to be upset, but you should also have realized that there was something you could have done to prevent it from happening in the first place.

    And I see the same thing happening here...

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: I'm getting tired of people constantly playing the victim role...

      Other other people leave their voice dictation on and get upset when other other other people actually say something to which the system responds. Of course it's those other other other people who are to blame, right?

      I'm not sure the victim *is* to blame here. He is sold something which, to those who are unaware of the technical details, appears to be the electronic equivalent of the perfect human secretary/PA - knows everything about your which is relevant to the job, but maintains a discreet silence about it outside the office. Knows when your partner's birthday is, and will arrange flowers when you forget. Knows which set of books to show the revenue... knows how to spell the words you don't; remembers all the things you ought not to forget, but do.

      But as the man said, sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. For most people, that's what it is. They're sold a spell which doesn't work quite as expected, made by some of the brightest and best magicians in the world, and I don't think it's unreasonable that they blame the wizard when it goes wrong. c.f. The Sorcerer's Apprentice...

      1. deathOfRats

        Re: I'm getting tired of people constantly playing the victim role...

        "... sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. For most people, that's what it is..."

        Exactly THAT.

        In this last two weeks only I've been asked to do just that "Just do your magic" (translated, but sounds quite similar in spanish. And yes, you should read it in ALL CAPS!!1!) about 5 times. At work. One of them it was about some carpentry thing that was in NO WAY related to IT. But that's for another rant.

        As I see it, you can't put the blame in those non-techy ones that have bought that shiny little thingy doing something they don't even know why they want it for. They do NOT know, NOR they want to know how to secure them, or even make them work if at first them don't when trying to access your secured network (and subsequentially yelling at you because "teh fscking WIFI isn't working. AGAIN!!1!").

        Please, put the DefaultUserName(random) and DefaultPassword(random) at random locations in the FsckingManual(PrintedPrettyPlease).

        Better leave it at this... Let's not start with the family, friends... Too many interconected thingies. Can we go back to the 80's, please? I could even come to terms with the music...

  7. VinceH Silver badge

    Meh.

    Nice try Burger King, but you've nothing on this (and probably variations) from a few years ago - that's how you troll a voice recognition system.

  8. Christoph Silver badge
    Happy

    They made a slight mistake

    Apparently it reads the entry from Wikipedia. And Wikipedia can be edited.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: They made a slight mistake

      The expression "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes" may ring a bell; if not, put it in Google, with the quote marks. Or in Bing.

      It should be found footnoted with intimation of a vacancy in the editorial staff.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shout through the letterbox

    Ok Alexa order 100 dildos

    1. Nolveys Silver badge

      Re: Shout through the letterbox

      Ok Alexa order 100 dildos

      "Order them to do what?"

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: Shout through the letterbox

        > Ok Alexa order 100 dildos

        "Order them to do what?"

        Do a little dance, make a little love

        Get down tonight, get down tonight?

    2. MrT

      Re: Shout through the letterbox

      You forgot to confirm the order with "Yes! Yes!! YES!!!" ...

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Shout through the letterbox

      https://xkcd.com/1807/

    4. nijam

      Re: Shout through the letterbox

      > Ok Alexa order 100 dildos

      Which order would like them in? Sorted by length or by thickness?

  10. DougS Silver badge

    This may become a trend

    And I'll laugh as the Google Home owners howl. I'm sure they'll call upon the FCC or FTC to do something, but this business friendly administration isn't likely to be swift in any action - especially when democrat-friendly Google is the victim!

  11. EzJ

    The thought that now saying something could be considered unauthorised use of a computer, frankly makes my brain want to implode. If I announce "Ok Google" in a high street should I be charged for "hacking" into untold mobile phones? Absolutely insane.

    1. Andrew Jones 2

      If you go into someones house and pick up their Sky Remote (this has probably changed on the new layout though), and press Setup and then type "01" and press select and scroll down to LNB power on the installer menu and turn the LNB power off rendering the box unable to receive a Sky signal and requiring an installer visit to revert the change you made - then you have performed a malicious act. The fact that it was completely unprotected is beside the point.

      If you do something malicious just because you can - you are still the one at fault.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Getting a device to perform a search is hardly 'malicious' though is it? There is absolutely no loss or suffering.

        If anyone is at fault, it's Google for allowing unsecured access to the device.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Claiming it is malicious when there's no harm would get you laughed out of court. All it does is make your Googlebox look something up. If you could claim harm from that you'd be able to sue people who send you junk mail, because it forces you to look at the envelope and dispose of it.

      2. Christoph Silver badge

        Saying something to a friend of mine who happens to be called Alexa is hardly malicious. If anyone has done anything wrong it's Amazon for using her (not uncommon) name as a trigger and so causing her and her friends problems. And no, I'm not going to watch carefully anything I say to her just in case some nearby gadget might interpret it as a command.

  12. d3vy Silver badge

    A friend bought an echo for Xmas... I joked about shouting "order a 12inch horse dildo" through his letter box... Seems BK had a similar idea.

  13. Andrew Jones 2

    You should really update the article to note that Google acted swiftly - and just like they blacklist their own ads to prevent this exact thing from happening - they have blacklisted this advert too.

    It's very very impressive, when you consider that the device initially wakes up to the "OK Google" and in seconds as the advert is playing, Google has stripped out the background sound from your room, matched the fingerprint of the advert to it's contentID system and issued a cancel command back to the Google Home device to cancel the search and the lights switch off silently.

    Even with the dog barking in the room - Google still manages to recognise the advert and stop the search executing.

    1. Almost Me

      Disabled? Worked perfectly when I tried it...

      And the top result was "Google shuts down Burger King's cunning TV ad (The Verge)", followed by the Wikipedia entry on the Whopper.

      Has trouble recognizing my voice, though... so I don't use the misfeature.

    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Yeah because that makes it all better. While I'm sure they'll do the same to the next 4,287 copycats including the "Easter testicles" that will no doubt pop up in TV programs it's a totally stupid, and in my opinion unacceptable, problem to have to suffer through. It could be an easy fix by allowing the actual owner of such a device to personalize it so the start catch phrase isn't known to all and sundry.

      You know, instead of "OK Google!" maybe I want my safe word to be "Hey Fucknut!" or "L. Ron Hubbard's Diuretics" and this problem goes away in an instant and unlikely to ever rear its ugly head again. Of course that's a problem if it's so completely brain dead that it must listen in with an open internet connection constantly listening to every every single tick in the house. Is it?

      Is it really just an internet connected microphone with absolutely zero on board processing capability? If that's the case then they deserve every bit of headache and pain that miscellaneous audio sources can inflict upon them and that applies equally to both Google and it's customer lackeys.

      1. deathOfRats

        instead of "OK Google!" maybe I want my safe word to be "Hey Fucknut!"...

        Well, the devs for the BrainPal in Old Man's War had already solved that problem.

        But, of course, that was fictional and totally unrelated to real life...

      2. Andrew Jones 2

        "Is it really just an internet connected microphone with absolutely zero on board processing capability? If that's the case then they deserve every bit of headache and pain that miscellaneous audio sources can inflict upon them and that applies equally to both Google and it's customer lackeys."

        Come on - this isn't the Daily Mail - you are on IT site here, you know perfectly well that it is simply not feasible that it sits streaming everything you say 24/7 back to Google. Aside from the fact that this thing will have been taken apart by someone, someone else probably has serial access to one. At least 100 people will have run Wireshark to see who it is talking to and when. And then finally - it may only be voice - but it would still add a massive amount of bandwidth use to your monthly internet usage which would of been questioned countless times by now.

        It works like every other device of it's kind - including Siri and any other always listening bit of software. It wakes up when it hears the phrase it has been programmed to wait for - and at that point it starts sending the microphone stream off to whichever company is processing the stream.

        As for the countless people saying if you could change the phrase it would all be solved - you are wrong, and for this - I point to what happened when we asked people to come up with passwords. Google Home, Echo and whatever comes next are designed for normal people - not IT professionals. Normal people will either name it "Computer" or the name of someone they know / knew. The number of false triggerings would skyrocket. This is something many tech bloggers have touched upon - that while it's not quite as natural having to say "OK Google" it is 4 syllables and therefore has a lot less accidental triggerings compared to "Alexa" which gets false triggered a lot and "Siri" which if it was in a proper bit of hardware with a special microphone array making the device extremely sensitive - would be triggered ALL THE TIME because it's such a short word - and you know there is a not a chance in hell Apple would ever let you be able to customise that - because - they don't let you customise anything else either.

    3. deathOfRats

      "It's very very impressive... "

      Freaking impressive, I'd say...

  14. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    "Phew"? You were that worried that a commercial would activate your Internet of Tat thingy and make it talk about a cheeseburger for a bit?

    Get a grip, man.

  15. Number6

    Old News

    I remember back in the days of DOS when speech recognition came up. We had a laugh about the future prankster who'd stick his head in the computer room, shout "FORMAT C COLON YES" and run away.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Old News

      Wasn't there a Dilbert cartoon about this sort of thing, about 20 years ago?

      1. Tim Seventh

        Re: Old News

        Found it.

        http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-04-24

        1. Roj Blake Silver badge

          Re: Old News

          Dilbert was around in 1994? I feel old...

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Old News

            It actually started in 1989.

            How old did you say you were?

            1. Roj Blake Silver badge

              Re: Old News

              Very.

        2. Number6

          Re: Old News

          Based on where I was working at the time, our version of that pre-dated its appearance on Dilbert.

  16. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

    Delicious!

    Let the disgusting corporates go to town on each other; they fully deserve it.

    *gets popcorn*

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Delicious!

      It's another bun fight.

  17. John 110
    Coat

    Am I the only one...

    ... worried that Google has the ability to amend the search function of the device remotely?

    Not worried exactly, because I won't have one, but it strikes me as not too different from Amazon's ability to edit the content of your Kindle.

    Wait, just realised it does it at the server, not the client. Sorry I'm a bit slow this friday morning.

    What? It's thursday?! damn!!!

  18. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "... the BK stunt has now been stopped dead by Google."

    Can't have someone other than the primary user(s) of the device activating it now, can we? It would skew our profiling data...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Superb!

    As someone who doesn't and never will own one of these devices, I find this very, very funny indeed. Beyond funny in fact. Absolutely brilliant, in fact; well done that agency!

  20. Dr. G. Freeman

    This has got me thinking,

    How long is it going to be until this "bug" as it were becomes a selling point ?

    Like, an advert comes on, your device gets woken up and goes "would you like to order [whatever the advert was for] ? "

  21. Mr Dogshit

    Have It Your Way™

    Anyone who owns one of these ridiculous devices, like a little Stasi informer in your own home, deserves a good slapping.

  22. Michael Habel Silver badge

    SURPRISE !Google is an Advertising Company

    So do you get the felling that this is how Google ment for Google Now... Home to actually work?

    Brings a whole new meaning of Pop-up Ad's.

  23. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Default activation phrases, default passwords, the IoT has ignored the hard learned lessons from elsewhere, and made all the same mistakes over again.

    Oh, and this exploit is funny. If I were Rick Astley's ad people I'd Rick Roll every IoT device on the planet. You could get an album to No1 just by getting all these assistants to stream tracks.

  24. Wade Burchette

    Yet another reason

    This is now yet another as to why I will never ever get one of these personal assistants.

    Of course, my reason #1 is why would I want a device that is always listening to be in home? Sure, they are listening just for a few keywords now. But what is to stop Amazon or Google from updating the device to always be awake? These things are tied to an account. Look at how much tracking business slurp from you using your browser and computer. Now imagine if an ad company knew you where married, had two dogs, worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., had three children, the husband likes to watch basketball games, and so on. Just imagine how much marketing gold can be gleamed just by listening.

    My second reason is what happens to the data sent to the cloud to process after it is done?

    My third reason is I don't like the idea of all this connected stuff. That is just one more attack vector. Nothing can ever be completely secure. This reason is why I will never a lock, either in my car or at home, that can be locked/unlocked from my smartphone, computer, or so on.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Yet another reason

      "But what is to stop Amazon or Google from updating the device to always be awake? "

      One way to test it would be to have an interesting conversation, carefully avoiding the activation phrase, regarding a bomb plot or similar and see how long it takes for the door to break in.

      1. Andrew Jones 2

        Re: Yet another reason

        or.... like any other reasonably knowledgeable IT person - run Wireshark for the first 48 hours after letting the thing on to the network. Can confirm - other than when it's woken up, it doesn't generate a lot more traffic than a Chromecast, and seeing as it is a Chromecast Audio - that's not terribly surprising.

  25. Jay 2
    Flame

    "It's as gross as its grease-drenched fries."

    Many years ago BK changed their way of cooking fries and since then I've never been a fan. Out of those two I prefer burgers from BK and fried from McD. But given more choice (and a bit more cash) Five Guys is my current favourite burger joint, even if I'm not sure about their fries.

    Fire inco, as allegedly something from BK is flame grilled...

  26. dave 93
    Facepalm

    OK Google...

    Play Rick Astley - Never going to give you up

  27. Lord_Beavis
    WTF?

    Is it me...

    or does it sound like a vegan wrote this article?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this is fantastic

    There's nothing wrong with this, it's a great idea. It exposes the ugly truth of these things to the world, simply you are an idiot if you let google listen to everything that's said around you.

  29. Jc (the real one)

    I thought this was a great idea... my android phone was triggered and immediately the google search pointed to this story (not the el-reg version).

    Of course, if Google and/or Motorola would release some updates, maybe they could make it not recognise the BK actors voice!

    Jc

    1. Andrew Jones 2

      They did, within hours. The lights come on when it hears "OK Google" they spin a few times, Google uses contentID matching on the server - recognises the advert and issues a cancel command to the device and the lights switch off and it goes back to sleep silently - while the advert continues to play.

  30. Andy 97

    How long before Last Week Tonight runs an ad in the Washington DC area (on Fox News) that says:

    "Ok Google, show me evidence of man-made climate change"

  31. stringyfloppy

    I wanted to write and record a hit single with the words "Hey Tom Tom" in it, so that when it played in cars with Tom Tom GPS devices in would trigger their Tom Tom's to talk. There's a song I sometimes sing to my son at bedtime that triggers Siri on my iPhone.

  32. David Lawrence

    Liking the Devo song reference

    Thanks to El Reg for the 'hold the pickles, hold the lettuce' sub-title. That's a great Devo tune on an even greater album by a great band. More, please ('he wore a hat and he had a job'?).

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