Researchers Figure Out Hacking Method To Extract Data From Computer Through HDD Noise
Just when you thought data hacking methods had reached their limit, another one pops up as some researchers have discovered a way to steal sensitive information from a computer simply by using the mechanical noise from the hard drives inside it. While not a very practical hack, it certainly gets the job done.
The hack was discovered by researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel where they were studying how to use sound to extract information from computers, particularly air-gapped ones which are completely off the grid and without connection to the Internet. The researchers even managed to use a PC’s cooling fan to transmit data including passwords and encryption keys.
Similar to the cooling fan hack, the hard drive can also be used to generate enough noise for the hack to work. Basically what the hack does is that it manipulates the drive’s internal mechanical arm to generate binary signals while it’s moving. Whenever the mechanical arm moves to read or write data, it creates a decent amount of sound at different frequencies which the hack exploits.
DiskFiltration, which the researchers named the hack, can infect a Linux based PC and then control the hard drive operations from there. During their test video, the researchers recorded the noise produced by using a Samsung Galaxy S4 which not only records the noise but is also used to decrypt it.
The hack is capable of transmitting all sorts of data through binary numbers, however the transmission rate is quite slow at 180 bits per minute with an effective range of about six feet. Since the hack is in early phases so it might improve over time, leading to a more covert method of hacking data like this.
Since the hack only works on hard drives, researchers suggested owners of air-gapped systems switch to SSDs thanks to their flash memory and lack of any moving mechanical parts which create no noise at all.