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A New Way Of Stealing Data Is By Electromagnetic Waves And It Is A Big Threat For Air-Gapped PCs

Stealing data isn't a hard task but now people have awareness of how to keep their data safe. But a new study has shown that your data can still get stolen from an offline machine with the help of electromagnetic waves. This is a type of PC known as an air-gapped PC from which the data can get stolen from over six feet, even through walls with an electromagnet receiver installed in a smartphone or any other device.


This method of data stealing was introduced by an Israeli researcher, Mordechai Guri, who named this method Covid-bit. The air-gapped PCs are mostly used in institutions that contain sensitive data like in military and government offices. But if this new method starts stealing data from air-gapped devices, it can bring a lot of problems in this world. If someone wants to steal data from these systems, he has to install the malware in the system physically. This malware then produces electromagnetic waves of 0 to 48kHz, and the CPU and frequencies of waves are controlled by the malware already installed.

The waves produced have raw data from the system and the data is easily decodable with an antenna connected to a mobile device with an audio jack of 3.5mm. A special program is used to decode the data with the help of any device such as a mobile but the data is produced with the help of a noise filter. The developer experimented with data-stealing on computer desktops, laptops, and Pi3. It was found that laptops are the hardest to steal data from because of their saved energy which makes it difficult to produce electromagnetic signals. Desktops can easily help with data-stealing as to transmit 50 bits per second, the error rate is just between 0.1% and 0.8%. Similarly, for 1000 bits per second, the error rate is about 1.78% which means it is still perfect to transfer the data. According to these stats, a 10KB file can easily be transmitted in 90 seconds from a desktop to another device with electromagnetic waves.

When the experiment was done on Pi3, it showed that the device worked only at some distances because it was showing weak supply at far places. Guri said that the places which use air-gapped PCs should monitor their CPU loads and frequencies, and should immediately take action if they detect any suspicious activities going around their systems. The other solution for this is to lock the CPUs with certain frequencies so the data cannot get stolen with the radiation. But there are some drawbacks too, as doing some preventive measures can affect the overall performance of PCs.

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