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Radio Waves for the Detection of Hardware Tampering


Reseachers can monitor an entire system, such as a server, with simple radio antennas (pink).

Credit: Michael Schwettmann

Scientists at Germany's Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy, and information technology company PHYSEC have developed a technique that uses radio waves to monitor hardware for tampering.

The radio waves can be used to detect the slightest changes in ambient conditions via a system with a sender and a receiver antenna.
The transmitter emits a special signal that is reflected by walls and computer components; these reflected signals have a unique signature when they reach the receiver, which even the smallest of tampering can disrupt.

RUB's Johannes Tobisch said the antennas should be placed "as close as possible to the components that require a high degree of protection," because the source of tampering is easier to identify when it is closer to the receiving antenna.

From Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany)
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