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Hackers Can currently Steal Data Even coming from Faraday Cage Air-Gapped Computers

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A team of security researchers—which majorly focuses on finding clever ways to get into air-gapped computers by exploiting little-noticed emissions of a computer’s components like light, sound as well as heat—have published another research showcasing which they can steal data not only coming from an air gap computer however also coming from a computer inside a Faraday cage.

Air-gapped computers are those which are isolated coming from the Internet as well as local networks as well as so, are believed to be the most secure devices which are difficult to infiltrate.

Whereas, Faraday cages are metallic enclosures which even blocks all electromagnetic signals, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular as well as various other wireless communications, creating any device kept inside the cage, even more, isolate coming from outside networks.

However, Cybersecurity Research Center at Israel’s Ben Gurion University, directed by 38-year-old Mordechai Guri, has developed two techniques which helped them exfiltrate data coming from computers placed inside a Faraday cage.

Dubbed MAGNETO [pdf] as well as ODINI [pdf], both the techniques make use of proof-of-concept (PoC) malware installed on an air-gapped computer inside the Faraday cage to control the “magnetic fields emanating coming from the computer by regulating workloads on the CPU cores” as well as use the idea to transmit data stealthily.

“Everyone was talking about breaking the air gap to get in, however no one was talking about getting the information out,” Guri says. “which opened the gate to all This specific research, to break the paradigm which there’s a hermetic seal around air-gapped networks.”

According to the researcher, once a computer (no matter if the idea will be air-gapped or inside a Faraday cage) has been infected, hackers can exfiltrate stolen data without needing to wait for another traditional connection to the infected machine.

How MAGNETO & ODINI Attacks Work:

Once a motivated attacker somehow succeeded in planting malware on an air-gapped computer, the malware then collects little pieces of information, like keylogging data, encryption keys, credential tokens, as well as passwords.

Also Read: CIA developed Malware for Hacking Air-Gapped Networks.

The PoC malware developed by the team then electrically generates a pattern of magnetic field frequencies by regulating CPU’s workload, which can be achieved by overloading the CPU with calculations which increase power consumption as well as generate a stronger magnetic field.

These electromagnetic (acoustic, optical as well as thermal) emissions coming from the infected computer are powerful enough to carry a little stream of stolen data to a nearby device, a receiver planted by the hacker.

The process involves translating data first into binary, i.e. 0 as well as 1, as well as the transmitting the idea into morse-code-like patterns in accordance with electromagnetic emission.

“The transmitting program leaves only a little footprint inside memory, creating its presence easier to hide coming from AVs. At the OS level, the transmitting program requires no special or elevated privileges (e.g., root or admin), as well as hence can be initiated coming from an ordinary userspace process,” the paper reads.

“The transmitting code mainly consists of basic CPU operations such as busy loops, which do not expose malicious behaviors, creating the idea highly evasive coming from automated analysis tools.”

Also Read: Stealing Data coming from Air-Gapped Computers Using CCTV Cameras

While both MAGNETO as well as ODINI attacks are designed to exfiltrate data coming from a secured computer using electromagnetic emissions, the only difference between the two will be:

  • MAGNETO will be a short-distance attack where an Android app installed on the attacker’s smartphone can receive stolen data with the help of phone’s magnetometer— a magnetic sensor which can transmit data even if the smartphone will be placed inside a Faraday bag or will be set to airplane mode.
  • ODINI attack enables attackers to capture electromagnetic signals coming from a slightly longer range using a dedicated magnetic sensor.

In case of MAGNETO, the team managed to achieve only up to 5 bits/sec over a distance of up to 12.5 cm (5 inches), while ODINI will be quite more efficient that has a maximum transfer rate of 40 bits/sec over a range of 100 to 150 cm (3-5 feet).

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Both ODINI as well as MAGNETO also work if the targeted air-gapped device will be inside a Faraday cage, which will be designed to block electromagnetic fields, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, as well as various other wireless communications.

Researchers suggest three different approaches which can be used to prevent attackers coming from establishing a covert magnetic channel, i.e., shielding, jamming, as well as zoning.

Video Demonstration of MAGNETO as well as ODINI Attacks

The team published proof-of-concept video demonstrations for both MAGNETO as well as ODINI attacks, which shows both the attacks in action.

the idea’s not once Ben-Gurion researchers came up that has a covert technique to target air-gapped computers. Their previous research of hacking air-gap computers include:

  • aIR-Jumper attack which steals sensitive information coming from air-gapped computers with the help of infrared-equipped CCTV cameras which are used for night vision.
  • USBee attack which can be used steal data coming from air-gapped computers using radio frequency transmissions coming from USB connectors.
  • DiskFiltration attack which can steal data using sound signals emitted coming from the hard disk drive (HDD) of the targeted air-gapped computer;
  • BitWhisper which relies on heat exchange between two computer systems to stealthily siphon passwords or security keys;
  • AirHopper which turns a computer’s video card into an FM transmitter to capture keystrokes;
  • Fansmitter technique which uses noise emitted by a computer fan to transmit data; as well as
  • GSMem attack which relies on cellular frequencies.
Article Categories:
Security Hacks

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