Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev report data can be stolen from an air-gapped computer using the computer's fan and a mobile phone placed near the targeted computer. The team has dubbed the method Fansmitter and says central-processing unit and chassis fans are ideal because they can be monitored and controlled using widely available software.
A piece of malware installed on the targeted air-gapped computer can use the device's fans to send bits of data to a nearby mobile phone equipped with a microphone. The noise can be detected by the human ear, but a hacker could program the malware to transmit when no one is in the room, such as at night.
During an experiment, the team demonstrated a transfer rate of 3 bits per minute using low frequencies over a distance of one meter. They say the transfer rate is much better at higher frequencies. The team notes the "method is applicable to other kinds of audioless devices, equipped with cooling fans [various types and sizes of fans] such as printers, control systems, embedded devices, [Internet of Things] devices, and more."
From Security Week
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