Hacking into Air-Gapped Systems

Hacking into Air-Gapped Systems takes Hacking Into a Whole New Level

Generally speaking, we might think that a system cannot be hacked unless it is connected to a network (that is what we call an Air-Gapped System), but not anymore!

Researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel proved that any system can be hacked using the heat signatures sent by the built-in thermal sensors from an adjacent computer. However, one cannot get access to an Air-Gapped System until that system is injected with a malware that uses system’s built-in Thermal Sensor to transmit data through it.

Main Points of Hacking Air-Gapped Systems

But, this kind of hacking needs to meet 3 needs:
  1. Both systems must be injected with malware
  2. They need to be as nearer as possible to make their heat signatures visible to one another’s Heat Sensors.
  3. The temperature of the environment around the systems must be stable so that they can transmit data in binaries as increasing in temperature by 1 degree till a specified period of time will be taken as binary “1” and a decrease by 1 degree will be taken as binary “0”

Considering the above points, it is clear that hacker can only send very few bits of data in an hour (practically it is 8 bits per hour) since it needs some time to make the temperature rise around the system.


So, the same researchers found another way of hacking into an Air-Gapped network using a mobile to receive Radio Waves generated by the video card of the computer.

However, the system needs a malware called AirHopper to make its video card send FM signals and any mobile that is roughly at a distance of a normal WiFi network (20-30 feet).

This type of hacking requires to AFSK (Audio Frequency Shift Keying) in which each character is given a specific frequency that can be received by an FM Receiver and vice versa. This type of hacking will transmit the data at the rate of 60 bytes per second, which is a significant improvement over the previous one.

Author: Sankara Srikrishna

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