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Side channel leaks

Look who is watching: Side channel leaks

In its May 2009 issue, Scientific American ran an interesting, if somewhat futuristic article on the new ways in which one can steal secrets from your computer. In fact, the new ways are not new at all, but fundamentally the most primitive. We have heard of smart hacking tools and scripts that can breach the most secure computer network. What Scientific American describes has nothing to do with the network at all. Instead, it has everything to do with the physical capture of your computer screen.

It is as simple as spying on someone from a distance using binoculars. An eavesdropper”¦s camera equipped with powerful telescope lenses can be used to capture the screen images. It need not be directly from the screen but from a reflected image of the screen ”V the polished surface of a nearby teapot or even the eyeball of the person sitting in front of the computer. I have seen the human resources staff in one of the firms that I worked for use privacy filters, just to make sure that employees do not peer over their shoulders and read the screen. However, the article warns that these filters make the images reflected by the eyes only sharper.


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