BitJabber: The World's Fastest Electromagnetic Covert Channel

Zihao Zhan, Zhenkai Zhang, Xenofon Koutsoukos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

Abstract

An air-gapped computer is physically isolated from unsecured networks to guarantee effective protection against data exfiltration. Due to air gaps, unauthorized data transfer seems impossible over legitimate communication channels, but in reality many so-called physical covert channels can be constructed to allow data exfiltration across the air gaps. Most of such covert channels are very slow and often require certain strict conditions to work (e.g., no physical obstacles between the sender and the receiver). In this paper, we introduce a new physical covert channel named BitJabber that is extremely fast and strong enough to even penetrate concrete walls. We show that this covert channel can be easily created by an unprivileged sender running on a victim's computer. Specifically, the sender constructs the channel by using only memory accesses to modulate the electromagnetic (EM) signals generated by the DRAM clock. While possessing a very high bandwidth (up to 300,000 bps), this new covert channel is also very reliable (less than 1% error rate). More importantly, this covert channel can enable data exfiltration from an air-gapped computer enclosed in a room with thick concrete walls up to 15 cm.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the IEEE International Symposium on Hardware Oriented Security and Trust, HOST 2020
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Pages35-45
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781728174051
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 7 2020
Event2020 IEEE International Symposium on Hardware Oriented Security and Trust, HOST 2020 - Virtual, San Jose, United States
Duration: Dec 7 2020Dec 11 2020

Publication series

NameProceedings of the IEEE International Symposium on Hardware Oriented Security and Trust, HOST 2020

Conference

Conference2020 IEEE International Symposium on Hardware Oriented Security and Trust, HOST 2020
CountryUnited States
CityVirtual, San Jose
Period12/7/2012/11/20

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