Feeds

Secret sub tech hints at spooks' TEMPEST-busting bugs

'Other UK gov parties' wanted details suppressed

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Through the cabbage patch - or into the secret walled garden?

BAE is choosing to emphasise the technology's uses in submarines, whose steel pressure hulls must normally have hundreds of "penetrations". Each of these is a maintenance and design burden - so much so that the pressure hull must be significantly thicker and heavier at the "cabbage patch" forward of the sub's conning tower/sail, where most of the penetrations are clustered.

Likewise such kit would make it much simpler to let soldiers inside a tank or personnel carrier see out, without compromising their armour by inserting windows or holes for camera feeds. Similarly sensors or instruments inside a reactor core or other expensively sealed environment could be installed more cheaply and conveniently.

None of these applications, though, would seem to call for secrecy regarding the mechanism by which the power and data are carried. One is compelled to speculate regarding other uses for it, which might be frustrated if enemies of the British state knew the details.

Just for instance, it's possible to imagine a bug, camera or wiretap of some sort clandestinely installed inside a building, drawing its power wirelessly from equipment outside the walls and sending its harvest of data out by the same means. Not only would there be no need for giveaway battery changes or concealed wiring; the gear would also be invisible to ordinary radio-frequency type countersurveillance scans.

And better: the BAE gear apparently works right through a ferrous steel submarine hull, so its possible spooky counterpart might just be able to drill through a Faraday cage of the sort frequently wrapped around sensitive rooms, computers or comms gear as a security measure. Such measures - for instance those required to pass GCHQ's "TEMPEST" certification - are designed to block unintentional emissions from one's own gear, usually in the RF spectrum, rather than stopping special installed bugs working on quite different principles.

Dr Kent says that BAE's kit is not yet in service, but there are other labs than BAE's in the UK. In particular the intelligence services are known to have extensive technical shops of their own, potentially well able to develop this sort of kit - perhaps some time ago, in fact.

It doesn't seem impossible that even now MI5/SS, MI6/SIS and GCHQ have equipment similar to BAE's sub/tank datalinks in the field, siphoning information undetectably out of systems or locations considered impenetrably secure by their owners. It also seems plausible, given the request from "other government parties" that BAE not reveal details of their gear, that there is some way to frustrate such methods once you know about them.

The world of bugging and clandestine surveillance - and countermeasures against these - may be about to suffer another technical upset in the near future. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
EE fails to apologise for HUGE T-Mobile outage that hit Brits on Friday
Customer: 'Please change your name to occasionally somewhere'
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.