When mute is really not MUTED?

When mute is really not MUTED?

According to a new study and research it has been found that pressing the mute button on some of the popular video conferencing apps may not actually work like they should, as the apps could still listen in on the microphone. To be specific, the study shows that in the software when mute is enabled it does not prevent audio from being transmitted to the respective applications’ servers continually or periodically. Therefore, users would not know how the mute system works due to this information piece being cut out from the privacy policy document and unfortunately assuming that the audio input is paused when mute is pressed.

This activity is highlighted in the 1st phase of the study which includes around surveying 223 video conferencing app users on their expectations when mute is pressed.  77.5% responds states that it is unacceptable for these apps to continue to access the microphone and possibly gather any data or information when mute is activated. This study was conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Loyola University in Chicago, that published a paper on the results.

These researchers conducted a thorough runtime binary analysis of some of the applications to determine what type of data each of them collects and whether that data constitutes a threat to privacy. The applications were as follows; Zoom, Slack, MS Teams, Skype, Google Meet, Cisco Webex, BlueJeans, WhereBy, GoToMeeting, Jitsi Meet and Discord. The team tracked raw audio transmitted from the apps to the audio driver of the underlying OS, and eventually to the network. It was stated that no matter the mute was enabled, all aps occasionally collected data and information, except for the web clients using the browser’s software mute feature.

“Our findings suggest that, contrary to the statement in the privacy policy, Webex monitors, collects, processes, and shares with its servers audio-derived data, while the user is muted,” reads the technical paper that supports the study.

“To inform Cisco of our investigation results, we opened a responsible disclosure with Cisco about our findings. As of February 2022, their Webex engineering team and Privacy team are actively working on solving this issue.”

Hence few things YOU could do is 1st, read the privacy policy to better understand how your data is managed and what risks are involved in using a particular software product. Secondly, if your microphone is connected to your computer via a USB or jack cable, you may as well unplug it when muted. Finally, you can use your OS’s audio control settings to mute your microphone’s input channel so that any apps will receive zero volume audio.


Source: https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/mute-button-in-conferencing-apps-may-not-actually-mute-your-mic/


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