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Eavesdropping Antennas Can Steal Your Smart Phone's Secrets

Eavesdropping Antennas

Credit: Technology Review

Cryptography Research scientists have developed a method for a standard TV antenna, an amplifier, and specialized software to find the secret key being used by an application running on a smartphone to encrypt data.

The researchers say an attacker with access to this key could use it to impersonate the device he stole it from. The antenna detects radio signals leaking from the transistors on the chip inside the phone performing the encryption calculations. Transistors leak the signals when they are active, so the pattern of signals from a chip gives an eavesdropper a representation of the work the chip is performing.

The researchers also demonstrated how a loop of wire held close to two models of a smartphone could pick up their secret keys. All of the devices the researchers tested produced signals of some kind that could reveal their keys, although different eavesdropping techniques were necessary for different devices, Cryptography Research's Benjamin Jun.

"We've notified all the phone vendors and manufacturers, and there's a lot of work being done on this now," Jun says. The researchers have found that modifications to the hardware or software of a mobile device can disrupt the signals that an eavesdropper can pick up.

From Technology Review 
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc. External Link, Bethesda, Maryland, USA 


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