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Acoustic Side Channel Attack


A research paper titled “A Practical Deep Learning-Based Acoustie Side Channel Attack on Keyboards”, revealed that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to decode passwords by analysing the sound produced by keystrokes.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Acoustic Side Channel Attack (ASCA)
  2. Side Channel Attacks (SCAs)

Acoustic Side Channel Attack (ASCA)

  • Acoustic Side Channel Attack (ASCA) is a novel hacking technique that exploits the sounds generated by typing on a keyboard to decipher the pressed keys.
  • The distinct audio signatures produced by each keypress are analyzed to deduce the specific letters and numbers being typed.
  • Hackers leverage advanced tools to capture and analyze audio recordings from various sources, including Zoom video conferencing calls and smartphone microphones.
  • These audio recordings are processed using algorithms and machine learning models to decode the keyboard inputs.
Research Findings:
  • A study delved into ASCA attacks using different audio sources and machine learning techniques.
  • Researchers demonstrated that training a deep learning model with audio data from nearby smartphones led to an impressive accuracy of 95% in recognizing typed keystrokes.
  • The model achieved exceptional accuracy with minimal training data on MacBook Pro keyboards.
Implications and Security Concerns:
  • The use of ASCA introduces significant security concerns as it can potentially expose sensitive information.
  • This technique could compromise passwords, confidential messages, and other private data, thereby posing a threat to personal privacy and data security.
Advancements in Hacking Techniques:
  • ASCA exemplifies how hackers are constantly evolving their methods to exploit unique vulnerabilities.
  • Traditional security measures might not be sufficient to counter such innovative techniques that exploit non-traditional attack vectors.
Protection and Prevention:
  • To mitigate the risks associated with ASCA attacks, individuals and organizations should consider adopting:
    • Noise-reducing measures: Reducing the audio footprint of keystrokes can make it harder for attackers to gather meaningful data.
    • Advanced cybersecurity tools: Implementing advanced security solutions that detect and prevent unconventional attack methods.
    • User awareness: Educating users about the potential risks of audio-based attacks and the importance of secure typing environments.

Side Channel Attacks (SCAs)

  • Side Channel Attacks (SCAs) are sophisticated hacking techniques that exploit unintended information leakage from auxiliary systems associated with cryptographic algorithms.
  • Unlike traditional attacks that target algorithm weaknesses, SCAs focus on analyzing auxiliary signals to infer sensitive data.
Attack Methodology:
  • SCAs target various devices, including electronic systems, by analyzing signals emitted during cryptographic operations.
  • Auxiliary Signals: These attacks leverage unintentional signals, such as electromagnetic radiation, power consumption, acoustic emissions (sound), or even temperature fluctuations.
Types of Side Channel Attacks:

Electromagnetic Attacks:

  • Capture electromagnetic emissions from electronic components during computations.
  • Analyze these emissions to infer cryptographic keys or other sensitive data.

Power Analysis Attacks:

  • Monitor the power consumption of a device during cryptographic operations.
  • Variations in power consumption can provide insights into the internal computations and, consequently, the encryption keys.

Acoustic Attacks:

  • Capture sounds produced by devices during operations (e.g., typing on a keyboard, printing).
  • Analyze the audio signals to decipher patterns that reveal sensitive information.

Timing Attacks:

  • Exploit variations in execution time of cryptographic operations.
  • Analyze the time taken to perform specific tasks to infer cryptographic keys.
  • SCAs are stealthy and often go unnoticed since they don’t directly attack the cryptographic algorithms.
  • Attackers can recover encryption keys or sensitive data, compromising the security and confidentiality of a system.
  • Developing countermeasures against SCAs is challenging due to the wide range of potential leakage sources.
  • Implementing techniques like randomizing execution times, using noise to mask signals, or using hardware-based protections can help mitigate SCAs.
  • SCAs highlight the importance of considering all potential sources of information leakage when designing secure systems.
  • Security experts need to continually evolve their strategies to prevent sophisticated attacks that exploit unconventional vulnerabilities.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2024