May 20th, 2002, 06:29 PM
Man if we didnt have enough to worry about! Found this while searching for fiber optic junk
COMPANIES that have spent a small fortune trying to thwart hackers now face a completely new security threat. It`s called optical hacking. Computer scientists at Cambridge University say plain text on a computer screen can now be read at a distance simply by capturing the diffuse glow from the screen. And it works even if the light has bounced off walls and passed through curtains.
Markus Kuhn of the university`s computer lab will explain how optical hacking works at an IEEE security conference in Oakland, California, in May. And he`ll tell delegates why it could be every bit as effective as snooping on stray radio signals from monitors.
Although you can securely encrypt the data stored on a PC, it has to be decrypted at some point so that you can work with it on screen. Computer scientists have known since the mid-1980s that you can pick up stray electromagnetic signals from a computer screen with a sensitive radio receiver, and display the screen`s contents on a modified TV set. So some firms now install protective metal meshes, casings and cables to stop data leakage, and treat windows with transparent shielding materials.
But that won`t stop someone reading what`s on the screen. A basic astronomical telescope makes even small fonts legible up to 60 metres away, so some people keep screens displaying sensitive data well away from windows. But now even that measure has been defeated.
Kuhn has found that it is possible to reconstruct the image of someone`s computer screen by grabbing its reflected glow. You don`t need to see the screen directly. Its diffuse flickering will do.
Most monitors work like a TV set, using "raster" scanning . An electron beam sweeps across the phosphor dots on the screen line-by-line, and its varying intensity determines how brightly each of the dots glows. The intensity of the beam is governed by the varying voltage of the video signal sent from computer to monitor.
Screen phosphors have an afterglow of milliseconds, which helps ensure that the eye sees a complete picture rather than a moving spot of light. But there is a sharp, detectable fall-off in intensity as soon as the beam leaves the phoshor spot. As the beam scans the dots, its fluctuating brightness can be picked up by off-the-shelf light sensors called photodiodes.
The researchers wondered if they could detect this sequence and use it to reconstruct the original video signals. So Kuhn`s lab ran tests on a Dell monitor with a 640-by-480 pixel standard raster, with images refreshed 85 times per second and the brightness and contrast left at the manufacturer`s settings. The screen was positioned so light from it bounced off a nearby wall. This reflected light was then picked up by a photodiode detector.
Kuhn`s team used an electronic filter to reduce the "noise" produced by ambient light, and they easily "tuned out" light from electric lamps because it flickers at a different frequency to the monitor. When the remaining signal was processed and fed to another monitor, the text from the original screen was clearly legible, Kuhn says. A snooper could even record these screen images on a video, and then read them at their leisure.
So how close does a spy have to be for it to work? Not very. Kuhn says you could pick up the signal from 100 metres away or more by using a telescope to home in on a patch of reflected screen light on, say, a ceiling tile in an office block.
Kuhn says exposing this new risk will help people take countermeasures. Simple solutions include swamping the screen glow by choosing fluorescent office lights with similar phosphors to the monitor. Avoiding darkened rooms, and using flat LCD screens, which are dimmer and have slower refresh rates, should make signals harder to track.
Does this herald a new bonanza for electronic spies? Possibly not, says Graham Cluley, a technology consultant with Oxfordshire-based computer security house Sophos. "James Bond technology like this sounds cool, but it`s usually a lot easier to rely on humans, like office cleaners," he says. "Even if someone can`t take home a floppy disc, no one can wipe their memory of what they read on screen."
source is www.futura-sciences.com/news584.php
May 20th, 2002, 07:47 PM
god help us all.
first you can hack with a pringles can, now by viewing reflected light?
At least stuff like this stays out of the hands of the script kids. Can you imagine a bunch of 14 year old pimple faces running around downtown LA with a laptop and a telescope?
FYI: The article insinuates it's best to catch a PC at night. So all you script kids head on down to south central at about 1:30am and see how much fun hacking really is.
May 20th, 2002, 07:55 PM
That's really a fascinating article, thanks for sharing! I think that it is a little too "James Bondish" for day to day offices to have to really worry about, but places where really sensitive data is used could be at risk. However, it also sounds like the precautions needed to take to prevent it from happening are fairly simple, and not terribly expensive either. The question is: Will anyone listen?
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
May 21st, 2002, 02:24 AM
/me puts black tape all over my monitor
ha! thats beat them........hmmmmmm but how am i gonna be able to see what new threads there are D'oh >_<;
May 21st, 2002, 02:29 AM
Wouldn't something like speakers next to your computer scramble it?
May 21st, 2002, 02:43 AM
hmm but don't light and sound work on 2 altogether different wavelengths, so would have absaloutley no effect on each other? Or are refering to the fact that most speakers have magnets in them which effect the monitor? But if this ius the case then it would effect how the user sees the information as well so would not be the best way to protect it as even the person who is suppoused to be able to see it will see it distorted
well at least i think thats what u mean??
May 21st, 2002, 02:49 AM
hahah first, the modem lites.. now its the monitor... lmao.. damn...
May 21st, 2002, 02:51 AM
Oh well, now that I think about it the filtering out different frequencies would get rid of that problem. But will LCD monitors work the same way?
June 2nd, 2002, 08:44 PM
the speaker magnets dont matter anyway, as they are usually shieldied so they dont mess up the moniter, its the same way with most home theater systems, esp the center channel, which normally sits on top of the tv or somewere like it.
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June 2nd, 2002, 09:20 PM
I wonder if variable refresh rates say going from 60-100 at a random speed would help to eliminate this?
Or you could break out that old dusty strob light and really make things interesting
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