Internet Hackers Now Target Electrical Outlets to Steal Information
One would think that using an electrical outlet to commit information theft would be the most implausible thing in the real world, and better, would be a great movie plot in Hollywood!
As it turns out, this fantastic idea has now become a reality. This July, 2009 at a conference called Black Hat USA, internet hackers will reveal their latest modus operandi in stealing information from other computer systems via the power outlet that the computer system or PC is connected to.
This seemingly outrageous concept is not as far-fetched as many would suppose, considering our rapidly technologically advancing world. In fact, one only needs to look back at the past to find the key to this method. The secret is to use the electrical properties of old-fashioned equipment to gain access. Basically, when one uses a standard PC keyboard, a cable transmits electrical signals from the keyboard to the PC. Since these cables are not secured, the signals tend to seep out and escape through the ground wire of the same cable and make their way into the ground wire located in the power supply of the computer.
The hacker merely attaches a probe to a power socket in close proximity to the PC being attacked (possibly in a room next door or across from where the computer is located). The hacker may then detect the seepage and outflow of the leaking signals and can then translate and convert the signal into alphanumeric characters. This modus operandi has had a high success rate for hackers who use it to up to a maximum of 15 meters away from the signal source.
You may think you are safe if you use a wireless keyboard or are working on a laptop that is not charging from an electrical outlet in the wall, but you may have to think twice! Hackers now also have a way of eavesdropping on computer users who are not connected via electrical wall outlets. By making use of a simple laser beam (similar to a laser pointer used in presentations), all the hacker needs to do is to position the laser beam to point upon any shiny object in very close proximity (like the table where your laptop sits) to the laptop or wireless keyboard. This way the reflection of the laser beam can be captured by a receiving system. The vibration of the reflection, which is mainly caused by you typing on your laptop keyboard, is then analyzed and restructured and translated into words or numbers, especially since every key on your keyboard makes a unique and distinctive sound and vibration pattern. For this modus operandi, all the hacker needs is a direct line of sight to your laptop, and equipment that costs no more than a few hundred dollars.
So whatever you are using, keep safe and secure if you are doing work with confidential value on your PC. Maybe you can make sure nobody is in the empty room next to yours, or just close your curtains! In this high-tech world of ours filled with sneaky but smart hackers, we just never know how safe our information can remain.