Why it matters: Air-gapped computers, usually found in government, banking, enterprise, industrial and military setups, operate in tightly controlled environments, cut-off from the internet and under strict supervision. You’d normally think they’re safe from information leaks, however an Israeli security research team has proven once again that all it takes is some creativity.
Earlier this year, a group of Israeli security researchers at the Ben Gurion University revealed novel ways in which hackers can exploit physically isolated systems to leak sensitive information. One involved manipulating display brightness to alternate between two levels for sending zeroes and ones, another was about carefully tuning the speed of the cooling fans inside a PC to create tiny vibrations that could be picked up by the accelerometer on a smartphone.
In the meantime, the team headed by Mordechai Guri found yet another quirky technique dubbed AIR-FI, which is the latest in a string of tens of projects over the last five years. Interestingly, AIR-FI uses the system memory, specifically the DDR SDRAM bus, to generate 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi signals. Sensitive information can then be leaked at rates of up to 100 bits per second to Wi-Fi receivers within a range of a few meters.
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