Stealing data from airgapped PCs via speakers

Posted on Tuesday, Mar 13 2018 @ 15:49 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
Cybersecurity researchers from Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev published an academic paper that highlights how it's possible to steal data from airgapped PCs using speakers or headphones. It's not really a major secret, but it's possible to turn a speaker into a microphone. This basically enables inaudible ultrasonic sound wave transmissions between two speakers or headphones. This feature is possibly via "jack retasking", a feature enabled by various audio chipsets. Full details The Register.
MOSQUITO, the researchers explain, demonstrates that speakers can covertly transmit data between unconnected machines at a distance of up to nine meters. What's more, the technique works between mic-less headphones – the researchers say their work is the first to explore headphone-to-headphone covert communication.

Speakers, the paper explains, can be thought of as microphones working in reverse: Speakers turn electrical signals into acoustic signals while microphones turn acoustic signals into electrical ones. And each includes a diaphragm to assist with the conversion, which can help reverse the process.

Modern audio chipsets, such as those from Realtek, include an option to alter the function of the audio port via software, the paper explains. This capability is referred to as "jack retasking."
Air gapping circumvent via speakers

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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