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zdnet | Monday November 20, 2017
Four methods hackers use to steal data from air-gapped computers
Researchers have devised numerous ways to extract data from computer systems by developing covert channels. These channels fall into four general groups: Electromagnetic (the earliest attack vector) Acoustic (beyond speakers, modulated fan and disk drive noise can be used) Thermal (very low speeds possible) Optical (a hot area, where speeds up to 4k bps have been demonstrated) Electromagnetic (EM) channels range from eavesdropping on the EM radiation from the memory bus, to leakage from USB ports and cables. EM was the first channel widely explored and used, and has made EM shielding a common preventative measure. Acoustic channels have become popular with a advent of hackable smartphones whose microphones can pick up audio signals that humans can't differentiate from background hum. The latest area is the use of ultrasonic sounds, whose higher frequencies are both inaudible and offer greater bandwidth. Thermal hacks have been demonstrated, but with bandwidth measured in a few tens of bits per second over a short distance. It isn't clear that thermal transmission will ever find a practical covert use. A more recent focus has been optical transmission. With the advent of widespread - and easily hacked -- surveillance cameras, the ubiquitous LEDs on almost every system can transmit significant amounts of data. There are three classes of LED used in today's computer equipment...Read more