I’m a little surprised that this story isn’t getting more press. We’ve learned that not only can ultrasound be used to hack smartphones, but apparently it may have been weaponized and used in a series of attacks that authorities are at a loss to explain.
As the Associated Press reports, at least 21 American diplomats and a handful of Canadian diplomats in Cuba have suffered nosebleeds, permanent hearing loss, concussions and brain trauma after experiencing what’s been described as “sonic attacks:”
The blaring, grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet, and there was silence. He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him again. It was as if he’d walked through some invisible wall cutting straight through his room.
Soon came the hearing loss, and the speech problems, symptoms both similar and altogether different from others among at least 21 U.S. victims in an astonishing international mystery still unfolding in Cuba. The top U.S. diplomat has called them “health attacks.” New details learned by The Associated Press indicate at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laser-like specificity, baffling U.S. officials who say the facts and the physics don’t add up.
Investigators don’t know who is behind the attacks, and searches of the affected premises have not turned up any devices. Investigators also have no idea what the attacking device is; previously it was thought impossible that sound could trigger a concussion and brain trauma. Confusing the investigation further, the experiences of those who suffered attacks has not been consistent:
In several episodes recounted by U.S. officials, victims knew it was happening in real time, and there were strong indications of a sonic attack. Some felt vibrations, and heard sounds — loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas. Others heard the grinding noise. Some victims awoke with ringing in their ears and fumbled for their alarm clocks, only to discover the ringing stopped when they moved away from their beds.
The attacks seemed to come at night. Several victims reported they came in minute-long bursts. Yet others heard nothing, felt nothing. Later, their symptoms came.
… Sound and health experts are equally baffled. Targeted, localized beams of sound are possible, but the laws of acoustics suggest such a device would probably be large and not easily concealed. Officials said it’s unclear whether the device’s effects were localized by design or due to some other technical factor.
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction or fanciful spy novels, but it appears that these attacks are terrifyingly real. We will be watching this story with interest.