Feeds

Twinkle, twinkle little LED (now I know what's in your head)

Pass the duct tape, Alice

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Security researchers have published a paper warning that LED status indicators on datacomms kit can leak information to eavesdroppers.

A paper, Information Leakage from Optical Emanations, by Joe Loughry of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and David A.Umphress of Auburn University in Alabama explains how it's possible to correlate flickering lights with information flowing through a device.

On the face of it this seems impractical but the researchers have carried out tests which show "that it is possible to intercept data under realistic conditions at a considerable distance". Snoopers could intercept data from at "least across the street" using inexpensive equipment (which they haven't actually built yet), they suggest.

"Many different sorts of devices, including modems and Internet Protocol routers, were found to be vulnerable" to what the researchers describe as an "Optical Tempest" attack. Tests suggest lower speed device (such as 56Kbps) might be most subject to the theoretically undetectable attack.

The ability to monitor computer by intercepting stray radio-frequency emanations computers and displays has been common knowledge for some time, but there's been little mention of spying on signals in the optical spectrum.

One drawback is that such signals may be a noisy representation of the data flowing through them, as Loughry and Umphress acknowledge. Another difficulty, is that an attacker would need line of sight for effective snooping.

Paranoid punters may want to review that paper on the subject before deciding if they need to put duct tape over their LEDs or equipment redesign, both of which are suggested as countermeasures by the researchers. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.