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Side channels are prevalent in many systems and pose a significant security risk. In a blog post titled “Side Channels Are Common,” Bruce Schneier discusses the widespread occurrence of these vulnerabilities. Schneier points out that side channels are not limited to a particular type of system or technology. They can be found in a wide range of applications, including computer hardware, software, and even human behavior. Side channels arise when unintended information is leaked through various means, such as timing differences, power consumption, or electromagnetic emissions. One notorious example of a side channel attack is the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities discovered in modern computer processors. These vulnerabilities allowed attackers to extract sensitive information, such as passwords and encryption keys, by exploiting the timing differences in the processor’s execution of instructions. Schneier emphasizes that side channel attacks are not only limited to sophisticated hackers. In fact, they can be carried out by relatively low-skilled individuals using inexpensive tools. Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to address side channel vulnerabilities when designing and implementing their systems. To mitigate the risk of side channel attacks, Schneier suggests several countermeasures. One approach is to employ secure coding practices, ensuring that software is resistant to side channel attacks. Additionally, hardware manufacturers should consider implementing architectural modifications to reduce the leakage of sensitive information through side channels. Furthermore, Schneier highlights the importance of educating both developers and users about side channel vulnerabilities. By raising awareness and promoting best practices, organizations can better protect themselves against these types of attacks. In conclusion, side channels are a widespread security concern that affects various systems and technologies. It is vital for organizations to recognize the existence of these vulnerabilities and take appropriate measures to mitigate the risk they pose.

Title: Side Channels in PCs: A New Threat to Remote Computing

In a groundbreaking study titled “Lend Me Your Ear: Passive Remote Physical Side Channels on PCs,” researchers have revealed the alarming vulnerability of built-in sensors in commodity PCs. This research demonstrates that microphones, commonly found in PCs, inadvertently capture electromagnetic side-channel leakage from ongoing computation. Disturbingly, this information can be accessed remotely and passively through supposedly benign channels like audio recordings and Voice-over-IP applications, even after lossy compression. The implications of these findings have significant implications for remote-attack threat models, as physical side channels can no longer be excluded.

The Study’s Findings:
The research delves into the analysis of computation-dependent leakage captured by internal microphones and demonstrates how it can be exploited for various attacks. For instance, the study highlights scenarios where an attacker can steal secret ECDSA signing keys during a voice call, detect the web pages being loaded by the target, or even identify hidden opponents in online multiplayer games. These examples emphasize the potential dangers of physical side-channel attacks on PCs, which require neither physical proximity nor the ability to run code on the target.

Implications and Concerns:
The discovery of these side channels presents significant concerns for both individual users and organizations. With remote attackers being able to extract sensitive information without any physical interaction or access to the target’s hardware, traditional security measures may prove insufficient. Shielding and distance alone cannot effectively mitigate this threat, making it imperative for users and organizations to reassess their security protocols.

Tags and Publication Details:
The study falls under the domains of academic papers, sensors, and side-channel attacks. These tags help categorize and contextualize the research findings, making it easier for interested readers to explore related topics. The article was published on January 23, 2024, and can be accessed on the blog of renowned cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier.

The research on passive remote physical side channels in PCs sheds new light on the vulnerabilities that exist within commodity PCs. By inadvertently capturing electromagnetic side-channel leakage, microphones become a potential gateway for remote attackers to access sensitive information. The study’s findings highlight the urgent need for enhanced security measures to counter physical side-channel attacks. As technology advances, it is crucial for individuals and organizations to remain vigilant and prioritize the implementation of robust security protocols to safeguard against these emerging threats.

Key Points:
– Commodity PCs’ built-in sensors, such as microphones, inadvertently capture electromagnetic side-channel leakage.
– Remote attackers can passively exploit this leakage through benign channels like audio recordings and Voice-over-IP applications.
– Physical side-channel attacks on PCs can be conducted remotely and require neither physical proximity nor the ability to run code on the target.
– The study demonstrates various scenarios where attackers can steal sensitive information or detect hidden opponents in online games.
– Traditional security measures may be insufficient to mitigate this threat, emphasizing the need for enhanced security protocols.

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