Stealing Data with just putting a plug in the electrical switch in the next room would have been seen as a part sci-fi movie but it is no longer fiction. Hackers have created ways to steals your data while you are typing on your keyboard even from as much as 15 meters away.
The hack will demonstrated at the Black Hat USA 2009 security conference in Las Vegas later this month by by Andrea Barisani and Daniele Bianco.
The equipment to carry out the power-line attack could cost as little as $500, and the laser attack gear costs about $100 if the attacker already owns a laptop with a sound card, says Barisani. Carrying out the attacks took about a week, he says.
The hack was simple and has been successfully performed.
So how did it worked-
When you type on your keyboard or use your mouse it generates electrical signal that travels yo your computer. This signal tells your PC what you have typed and has been used like this from the time computer existed. But while doing this you also create a small current to be induced in the ground wire of your PC. This current goes back to your electrical circuit Board from where it can be accessed and on amplifying will give back all you type on your PC.
This trick has been proved to be successful and in not fiction. The only way to prevent yourself from this trick is to use wireless keyboards but still they can be hacked as they transmit signals in the air. Other possible solution would be grounding the PC so that extra leak current flows through that and not back into your electrical switch board.
So we don’t know to what extent would hackers go in using their mind in hacking stuff.
In the second type of attack where the presence of victim in line of sight was important was also described.
Attackers point a cheap laser, slightly better than what is used in laser pointers, at a shiny part of a laptop or even an object on the table with the laptop. A receiver is aligned to capture the reflected light beam and the modulations that are caused by the vibrations resulting from striking the keys.
This modulation is converted to an electrical signal that is fed into a computer soundcard. “The vibration patterns received by the device clearly show the separate keystrokes,” the researchers’ paper says. Each key has a unique vibration pattern that distinguishes it from the rest. The spacebar creates a significantly different set of vibrations, so the breaks between words are readily apparent.
Analyzing the sequences of individual keys that are struck and the spacing between words, the attacker can figure out what message has been typed. Knowing what language is being typed is a big help, they say.
Laptop lids, especially shiny logos and areas close to the hinges, provide the most easily read vibrations.
“We think it is important to raise the awareness about these unconventional attacks and we hope to see more work on this topic in the future,” Barisani and Bianco say in their paper. Others with more time and money could doubtless create better spying tools using the same concepts, they say.