Feeds

Teapot backdoor probed by German telescope boffins

Spoons, spectacles, even eyeballs - all security risks

Website security in corporate America

Just when you (may have) thought it was safe to log back onto your computer and do something private, German security boffins have come up with a new vulnerability.

Being a security-aware type of person - and perhaps preferring a view - your monitor doubtless faces away from the window, meaning that evilly-inclined persons with telescopes can't see what you're up to. Right? Wrong. Well, wrong if there's a teapot (or indeed any other reflective object) on or near your desk, anyway.

Michael Backes, Markus Durmuth and Dominique Unruh of Saarland University and the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Saarbrucken have found that hats of an opposing colour can train their telescope through the window on the adjacent reflective object, and so read everything taking place on your screen. Spherical surfaces (like the typical teapot) are especially good, because of the wide field of view they offer.

The Teutonic brainboxes' paper is called Compromising Reflections, or How to Read LCD Monitors Around the Corner, and can be read in pdf here. In it, the trio say that they were able to read 12-point Word documents off a nearby reflector from ten metres distance using a $1500 telescope. Upgrading to a more expensive $27,500 job, they could pick the info off reflectors from 30m away, as though across a street.

Apart from tea fanciers, the other big security leaks are spectacle-wearers - though it's at least marginally possible to read info directly off a user's eyeballs, apparently.

Particularly good results were obtained from reflections in a user’s eyeglasses or a tea pot located on the desk next to the screen. Reflections that stem from the eye of the user also provide good results. However, eyes are harder to spy on at a distance because they are fast-moving objects and require high exposure times ... glasses constitute an ideal target for our attack due to their less extreme curvature.

Other possible reflectors included wine glasses, plastic coke bottles and a spoon lying next to the monitor.

Don't think you're safe if you clear all the reflecting objects off your desk, either. Backes, Durmuth and Unruh are now working on reading "diffuse reflections on the user’s clothes or on a nearby wall". ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Blood-crazed Microsoft axes Trustworthy Computing Group
Security be not a dirty word, me Satya. But crevice, bigod...
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.