Friday, August 1, 2008

Van Eck Phreaking history revealed by NSA document

If you know what Van Eck Phreaking is already, you are a supreme geek, and I honor you.

For the rest of us, it is basically the interception and deciphering of secondary electronic emissions (electronic "noise") from afar. For example, if you are getting a fax it is potentially possible someone could pick up the "noise" the electronics are creating from across the street and decode it, figuring out what you just received, despite not having received the actual transmission itself.

This is different from hacking rfid credit cards, in that with the cards the signal intentionally contains information.

Phreaking is, of course, a huge security concern. Imagine the possibilities in an electronic voting scenario, for example. In this very cool Wired article, they present information on the history of phreaking and how the government first responded to the problem. Here's a teaser:

It was 1943, and an engineer with Bell Telephone was working on one of the U.S. government's most sensitive and important pieces of wartime machinery, a Bell Telephone model 131-B2. It was a top secret encrypted teletype terminal used by the Army and Navy to transmit wartime communications that could defy German and Japanese cryptanalysis.

Then he noticed something odd.

Far across the lab, a freestanding oscilloscope had developed a habit of spiking every time the teletype encrypted a letter. Upon closer inspection, the spikes could actually be translated into the plain message the machine was processing. Though he likely didn't know it at the time, the engineer had just discovered that all information processing machines send their secrets into the electromagnetic ether.

Enjoy learning more than you ever wanted to know about information technologies,


[via my Canukistani operative "Yuri"]


Bentley said...

This is why we should all live in faraday cages and keep a toilet paper tube and ultra bright LEDs* around. thankfully van Eck doesn't transfer well to LCDs :D

(* Note: This is the most efficient way to check if your house is bugged with small video bugs, you mount the ultra brights around the outside of the tube, look through the tube at walls/ceiling, if you notice a reflection on the wall that doesn't move/sparkle, your bugged)

Kate said...

snuggles, you worry me sometimes O.o

Tate said...

OH MY GOD, that is freaking cool..

Bpaul said...

I so flushed out the geek, on the FIRST comment nonetheless MUhahahaha.


I love the info about checking your house for small video bugs by the way.

Bentley said...

*hangs head*