Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2020/516

POWER-SUPPLaY: Leaking Data from Air-Gapped Systems by Turning the Power-Supplies Into Speakers

Mordechai Guri

Abstract: It is known that attackers can exfiltrate data from air-gapped computers through their speakers via sonic and ultrasonic waves. To eliminate the threat of such acoustic covert channels in sensitive systems, audio hardware can be disabled and the use of loudspeakers can be strictly forbidden. Such audio-less systems are considered to be \textit{audio-gapped}, and hence immune to acoustic covert channels.

In this paper, we introduce a technique that enable attackers leak data acoustically from air-gapped and audio-gapped systems.

Our developed malware can exploit the computer power supply unit (PSU) to play sounds and use it as an out-of-band, secondary speaker with limited capabilities. The malicious code manipulates the internal \textit{switching frequency} of the power supply and hence controls the sound waveforms generated from its capacitors and transformers. Our technique enables producing audio tones in a frequency band of 0-24khz and playing audio streams (e.g., WAV) from a computer power supply without the need for audio hardware or speakers. Binary data (files, keylogging, encryption keys, etc.) can be modulated over the acoustic signals and sent to a nearby receiver (e.g., smartphone). We show that our technique works with various types of systems: PC workstations and servers, as well as embedded systems and IoT devices that have no audio hardware at all. We provide technical background and discuss implementation details such as signal generation and data modulation. We show that the POWER-SUPPLaY code can operate from an ordinary user-mode process and doesn't need any hardware access or special privileges. Our evaluation shows that using POWER-SUPPLaY, sensitive data can be exfiltrated from air-gapped and audio-gapped systems from a distance of five meters away at a maximal bit rates of 50 bit/sec.

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Date: received 3 May 2020

Contact author: gurim at post bgu ac il

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Version: 20200505:011220 (All versions of this report)

Short URL: ia.cr/2020/516


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