Hack Into Laptops Via Power Outlet, Lasers

Is using a laptop getting dangerous? Thanks to a new exploit used by hackers, your information may not be safe out in public. In a recent article published by Network World, hackers can grab keyboard signals through its unshielded wiring; signals leak into the ground wire in a cable, and then travel into the laptop's electrical system. Bit streams generated by the keyboards that indicate what keys have been struck create voltage fluctuations in the grounds, according to the site. Thus if plugged in, hackers retrieve the information through the power outlet.

However, attackers can still gain access when laptops are unplugged. By using a cheap laser, a hacker can retrieve keystrokes by pointing the laser on a shiny part of the laptop, or a shiny object nearby. The hacker then aligns a receiver to capture the reflected light beam; the light captures to modulations stemming from vibrations caused by striking the keys.

“The only thing you need for successful attacks are either the electrical grid or a distant line of sight, no expensive piece of equipment is required,” Barisani and Bianco said. The equipment needed to carry out the power-line attack could cost as little as $500. The laser attack gear costs less: $100 if the attacker already owns a laptop with a sound card.

Both hacks will be demonstrated by Andrea Barisani and Danielle Bianco of Inverse Path later this month at the Black Hat USA 2009 security conference in Las Vegas.

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  • _Cubase_
    I have a better idea to steal someone's important information using a laser pointer. Shine it in their face to stun them, punch them out, grab the notebook and run!
  • matt87_50
    hmm, article needs more awesome... Quick! add LAZERZZZ!!
  • Anonymous
    This kinda stuff is possible in theory, but no need to worry about it in real life.

    For the laser, a single shift of the keyboard and everything gets skewed. For the power outlet, someone turning on a lightbulb would increase load on the grid and scramble the signal.

    So it is possible, but don't expect any of this in real life.
  • Other Comments
  • apache_lives
    oh noes! dont steels my useless informations!
  • doomtomb
    Woah this stuff sounds crazy. I thought a computer would be safe it was completely isolated from networks but through the power outlet is scary. This sounds like radical stuff.
  • matt87_50
    hmm, article needs more awesome... Quick! add LAZERZZZ!!