Feeds

Teapot backdoor probed by German telescope boffins

Spoons, spectacles, even eyeballs - all security risks

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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". ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.