A smartphone hacker has provided conclusive proof that the futuristic computing headset known as Google Glass can be surreptitiously modified to give anyone with physical access almost complete control over the device. He called on Google engineers to improve the security of Glass—which is currently only available to developers—before it becomes available to the general public.
Google engineers have stressed that the head-mounted computing device—which can capture nearby conversations and images and transmit them over the Internet—was meant to be hacked. But until now, it has been easy for end users to know when their all-seeing, all-hearing headsets were modified. All that has changed now that security consultant Jay "saurik" Freeman has fashioned an alternative way to gain almost unfettered "root" control. Using an exploit discovered seven months ago to root smartphones running Google's Android operating system, it takes him less than five minutes to hack the new device. From there, he can install a customized operating system that silently monitors everything the device sees or hears.
Because it requires a device to be put into a special "debug mode," the exploit isn't considered much of a security threat for smartphone users. After all, debug mode can be invoked only after a user has unlocked the handset using a PIN code or other security mechanism. Glass, by contrast, has no form of screen lock, making it possible for someone with even brief access to a headset to make persistent changes.