We all know that anti-virus software and strong passwords are must-haves to stop hackers. But, what if hackers could steal those passwords when your computer is not even connected to the Internet? Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology are saying that's real possibility due to the signals emitted by your computer or smartphone.
When your computer performs a spell check, opens a program or even just types a letter, it emits a tiny, imperceptible signal.
And, while we can't hear those signals, there are antennas, microphones and even AM radios that can. That means a hacker could sit near you in a public space and intercept the password you're typing into your computer without you knowing it by using an antenna in a briefcase or backpack.
Just about everything you do on your computer leaks a signal, but some are louder than others and easier for hackers to pick up. The researchers are trying to find out which functions leak the strongest signal to figure out how to quiet them down.
Right now, there's not much you can do. But, the researchers are looking at ways to detect vulnerable areas in a computer or smartphone that emit these loud signals. Then, the people who design our computers and gadgets could use that information to eliminate the leaks.
'We are measuring computers and smartphones to identify the parts of the devices that leak the most. That information can guide efforts to redesign them, and on an architectural level, perhaps change the instructions in the software to change the device behavior.' [said Dr. Alenka Zagic].
The other way to stop potential signal hackers is a bit less scientific: Just pay attention. If you're using your computer in a public place, you should always be aware of people who seem like they're trying to position their briefcase or bag close to you.