University of Tel Aviv researchers have shown that it is possible to crack 4,096-bit RSA encryption keys by using a microphone to listen to high-pitched noises generated by internal computer components.
The central processing unit emits a high-pitched noise as it operates, which fluctuates depending on which operations it is performing. The researchers developed software to interpret noise data obtained using basic microphones. However, listening and detecting the noise made by a computer as it processes a single character in an encryption key would be impossible, so the researchers developed a method that causes the noise to be repeated enough times in a row to enable its capture. By listening to how the computer processes the cyphertext, the researchers can map the noises made by the computer as it analyzes different characters, thereby enabling encryption keys sent by others to be cracked.
The researchers note their technique can be ported to various machines, and they also found that low-bandwidth attacks on computers are possible by measuring the electrical potential of a computer's chassis while the circuitry is busy.
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