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Cyberattack Concept Uses PC Fans to Steal Data

If data is stolen from your PC, it’s usually because you have inadvertently installed some form of malware on your system. There are, of course, examples of hackers finding ‘back doors’ in security systems. These types of cyberattacks, however, are usually much rarer. Did you ever consider though that your PC fans could be used to steal data off your PC? We certainly didn’t, but it seems it is, at least in theory, possible!

Created by Mordechai Guri at the Cyber Security Research Center at Ben-Gurion University (Israel), the AiR ViBeR concept shows how altering the vibrations of your PC fans could be used to steal data from your PC!

Cyberattack Using PC Fans?

Showing it working in the video below, the system is rather complicated (as you might expect). I will, however, do my best to explain it as concisely as possible.

The movement of the fans in your PC create acoustic vibrations. If these could be controlled, then they could be used essentially as a very basic form of morse (or binary) code. How does this result in data being stolen? Well, it also requires a compromised smartphone to be in proximity which can ‘hear’ the vibrations and from that transfer it back into physical data and send it over to the person/s committing the cyberattack.

Think of it as a very crude form of a ‘tape’ drive. You know, like those used on very old gaming systems such as the Commodore 64.

While this might all sound incredibly fanciful (and it is!), the video below does show that this system of cyberattack does have the potential to work. Albeit with a cripplingly slow data transfer speed, the chances are that only files of 4kb or smaller would really be vulnerable to this.

What Do We Think?

Now, at the risk of many of you already frothing at your mouth, yes, the chances of this type of cyberattack actually happening to anyone is remote. Like… winning the lottery 3 weeks in a row small! Firstly, the hacker would have to somehow be able to control your system fans and, following that, they’d also have to (completely independently) also have some form of hacked software placed on your smartphone which could hear and transmit the data. Hence why we called it a concept in the title. It’s possible, but the chances of this ever seeing a real-world application is zilch!

None the less, it is still an amazing idea and in terms of thinking outside the box, get’s a worthy nod of impressed from us!

What do you think? – Let us know in the comments!

Mike Sanders

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