Introducing Wireless Spyware — in a Pita


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The list of paranoia-inducing threats to your computer's security grows daily: Keyloggers, trojans, infected USB sticks, ransomware — and now even the rogue falafel sandwich.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Technion Institute of Technology, led by Dr. Eran Tromer of TAU's Blavatnik School of Computer Science, have developed a new palm-sized device that can wirelessly steal data from a nearby laptop based on the radio waves leaked by its processor's power use. Their spy bug, built for less than $300, is designed to allow anyone to "listen" to the accidental radio emanations of a computer's electronics from 19 inches away and derive the user's secret decryption keys, enabling the attacker to read their encrypted communications.

The device, described in a paper the team is presenting at the Workshop on Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems in September, is both cheaper and more compact than similar contraptions from the past — so small, in fact, that the researchers demonstrated it can fit inside a pita round.

"The result is that a computer that holds secrets can be readily tapped with such cheap and compact items without the user even knowing he or she is being monitored," said Dr. Tromer. "We showed it's not just possible, it's easy to do with components you can find on eBay or even in your kitchen."

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