AirHopper: Remotely Stealing Information from Offline Computers Using FM Waves

To protect some extremely sensitive information, many companies and government agencies have decided to keep some of their computers completely offline. This means no WiFi, no LAN, or any other sort of communication with the outside at all. But even these extreme security precautions are not going to stand in the way of progress.

A team of security researchers at the Cyber Security Labs at the Ben Gurion University, Israel, have come up with a way to remotely read information from a super-secure offline computer using nothing but FM radio waves. Mordechai Guri and Yuval Elovici presented their research at the IEEE International conference this Thursday and even provided a proof-of-concept malware named AirHopper.

The precise mechanics of this sort of snooping app are complicated. Simplified, in essence, when installed on a smartphone, the malware picks up on the radio emissions from the screen of the computer in question. The data is picked up at a bandwidth of 13-60 bytes per second and have an effective range of 1-7 meters, which is “enough to steal a secret password,” as one of the researchers points out. The team said they developed it to prepare for this sort of an attack in the future.

The video below demonstrates this process: