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Computer hacking: regular phone and EM radiation of the data bus

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Computer hacking: regular phone and EM radiation of the data bus
Footage from a work demonstration
Israeli security specialists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have successfully transmitted information from a computer to an ordinary cell phone, using only the electromagnetic radiation that the computer emits in normal operating mode.
In this way, they improved from last year, where a smartphone was required to obtain the data transmitted. This study points to the need for a serious tightening of work rules in secret enterprises. Even computers that are completely disconnected from the Internet can be used to stealthily sniff out secret and sensitive data.
In 2014, researchers successfully performed a data transfer between a computer and a smartphone. For the transfer to be successful, special software had to be installed on both the computer and the smartphone.
A video card with a monitor connected to it acted as a radio signal generator and transmitter. The modulated signal was picked up by the FM radio receiver built into the smartphone, and was decoded by the mobile app. The researchers were able to achieve a transmission rate of 60 bytes/sec.
FM receivers are commonly built into smartphones not only as a means of additional entertainment, but also as an opportunity to get disaster alerts in the absence of GSM connectivity.
But it is forbidden to bring smartphones to highly secret enterprises in any case – they still have built-in photo (and video) cameras, wi-fi, bluetooth and other means of data transfer, which can damage the security of the enterprise. But an ordinary phone without all these fancy gizmos – like the Motorola C123, which the researchers used in their work – is unlikely to fall under suspicion. However, it could also be used as a means of spying.
This time the researchers used a computer data bus to emit a modulated radio signal. Computers with multichannel device memory – if you transmit the same data on both channels at the same time, the signal strength is amplified.
A regular phone could be used instead of a smartphone thanks to a modification of its firmware. The modified firmware allows you to receive digital data on GSM frequencies. According to the idea of the engineers, the usual background radiation of the computer at work is taken as 0, and amplified by the transfer of special data through the bus – as 1. The transfer is divided into blocks of 12 bits. The phone waits for the beginning of the block (header 1010), uses it to adjust to the current signal level, and then receives the rest of the block.
The researchers successfully tested their system in a room with several working computers, simulating a standard work environment, and made similar software for various operating systems, both Windows and Linux.
Using the phone as a receiver was able to achieve speeds of up to 2 bits per second. You can’t transmit submarine blueprints that way, but passwords, GPS coordinates, or even a 256-bit RSA key are possible. Moreover, if a better receiver is used it is possible to increase transmission speed up to 1000 bits per second, and the range up to 30 meters, which was done by the experimenters. In fact, it is possible to receive a signal from somewhere in the parking lot next to the building where the malware infected computer is working.

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