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Future Malware to Be Injected into Systems via Electromagnetic Interference

Modern malware can infect computers in quite a number of ways, but future infections will be able to take over networks not even connected to the Internet. The infiltration mechanism under research at the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate (I2WD) is based on the interference induced in conductors such as network cables, which act as wireless antennae broadcasting information being transferred through them.

This bold initiative, called the Tactical Electromagnetic Cyber Warfare Demonstrator program, plans to control this interference in a way to allow both the injection and extraction of data from and into sealed cable networks.

This initiative will take cyber-warfare to a whole new level, making threats such as Flamer, Stuxnet or RedOctober look like primitive tools of espionage, as the human vector to bring the threat into the high-security facility will be no longer necessary. Threats could be snuck into companies that strictly forbid the use of removable media as easy as parking a van in front of the target building and powering up the injector device.

According to Defense News, this is not Hollywood science-fiction, but rather an existing technology that only needs some polishing before taking over your network at the flip of a button. Of course, transmission of complex data as residual noise is a highly complex task and collisions are likely to make the process a long and painstaking experience, but this type of attack is still highly plausible.

Just FYI, most critical networks are not wired using regular CAT5/CAT6 cabling, but rather the good-old coaxial cable, which has lower radiation and is much more insulated against electromagnetic interference. There is a good reason for spending three to five times the cost of a regular network – and now you know it.

About The Author

Senior E-Threat Analyst

Bogdan Botezatu is living his second childhood at Bitdefender as senior e-threat analyst. When he is not documenting sophisticated strains of malware or writing removal tools, he teaches extreme sports such as surfing the web without protection or rodeo with wild Trojan horses. He believes that most things in life can be beat with strong heuristics and that antimalware research is like working for a secret agency: you need to stay focused at all times, but you get all the glory when you catch the bad guys.

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Comments (6)

  • Dan Mossor

    I don’t know where you get your information, but you only got that last paragraph partially right. You are correct in stating “most critical networks are not wired using regular CAT5/CAT6 cabling”, but coax is not any more secure than shielded CAT5/CAT6 cable – which even low-level critical networks are now wired with. The truly critical systems are using fiber-optic cable, which, by definition, is immune to any electromagnetic interference in the cabling itself.

    Reply
    • Bogdan Botezatu

      It’s not about the WAN I was talking, but LAN. And, to my knowledge, I’m not sure government institutions would afford fiber-based LANs, unless they’re Pentagon or really mission-critical infrastructures. Coax is the cheapest alternative and has the main advantage that does not require updates since these networks were originally built, so it really cuts on the budget as compared to deploying fiber infrastructures. Also, most industrial applications still use IEEE standard 802.4 because of the vibrations which may affect performance in FO channels.

      Reply
  • Dave

    I disagree about the
    “Coax is the cheapest alternative and has the main advantage that does not require updates since these networks were originally built, so it really cuts on the budget as compared to deploying fiber infrastructures”

    Thinwire ethernet as we call it, the old 50 ohm coax cable network with bnc’s and vampire taps are very slow and more sersepterble to noise from mains and other rfi interference than ftp, unless your refering to the 75 ohm cctv cable then yes the speeds are much faster but still limited to length unlike Fibre. The cost of fibre to the bench is more attractive cost wise than most would think.

    Reply
    • Bogdan Botezatu

      True, 75-ohm coax has its limitations compared to fiber, but just I was saying in my previous comment, industrial halls and other enviromnents where machines and engines induce vibrations into the structure don’t play nice with fiber.

      Reply
      • Dave

        Sorry Bogdan, but I am somewhat confused about what you mean about engines induce vibrations ? Unless your networks in a NASA rocket then I am unaware of any engines induced vibrations that could ever hinder Fibre if its installed correctly in that environment.

        Reply

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