Stealing Encryption Keys From A Computer Just By Listening

/ 11 years ago


A team of researchers have managed to crack strong encryption algorithms by simply listening to a laptop as it decrypts it. I don’t mean they listened to someone type, they physically listened to the electrical components such as the processors and capacitors and found that they could isolate the vibrations made by these components to extract the RSA 4,096-bit encryption key in less than an hour!

Using a microphone and some software based audio filters they were able to extract keys, of course the microphone needs to be high powered and in close proximity. The team found parabolic microphones to work very well as they could be as much as 13 feet away from the system while recording what they needed. What’s even crazier is that they managed to do it with a regular smartphone, but the device had to be within a foot of the laptop. While a final test found that just recording the computers electrical ground potential could also provide the key.

So far the team have only cracked one type of RSA encryption, but there is no reason why they can’t decipher the sound paterns for different software. If your hiding some top secret information on your laptop, you may want to watch out for people putting their mobiles next to your computer, and be especially wary of people pointing parabolic microphones at you, just because you’re not speaking aloud, doesn’t mean there is nothing to record.

Personally I do think this raises some interesting security concerns, but on the other hand the method for extracting the keys is very impressive.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Engadget.

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