It's getting more difficult with every passing day to keep from being spied upon by nefarious tools interested in getting their hands on your personal information, creeping on what you're browsing with on your laptop or phone and, if you've not bothered to cover up that webcam, keep tabs on your life as they stream images of your day-to-day doings across the Internet. Thanks to a group of computer-savvy scientists, it looks like there may soon be one more monitoring method that we'll have to watch out for.
From Ars Technica:
Daniel Genkin of the University of Michigan, Mihir Pattani of the University of Pennsylvania, Roei Schuster of Cornell Tech and Tel Aviv University, and Eran Tromer of Tel Aviv University and Columbia University investigated a potential new avenue of remote surveillance that they have dubbed "Synesthesia": a side-channel attack that can reveal the contents of a remote screen, providing access to potentially sensitive information based solely on "content-dependent acoustic leakage from LCD screens."
Synesthesia, at its core, is pretty much just Van Eck phreaking with a twist. Where Van Eck phreaking typically uses radio signals leaking from display hardware to snoop on what a computer user's perusing, Synesthesia listens for aural emissions from the bits and pieces that are required to power a display. Depending on what you're looking at on your computer's screen, the power being sent out to drive each pixel ramps up or down. This changes the pitch of power running through the display's guts. By capturing this audio for review, using the microphone built into the device or a nearby device like an Amazon Echo or other digital assistant-enabled device (never let one in your house,) it's very possible that a hacker could sort out what you were looking at with a bit of skill and a whole lot of machine learning. Read the rest