The most sensitive work environments – like nuclear power plants – demand the strictest security. Usually this is achieved by air-gapping computers from the Internet and preventing workers from inserting USB sticks into computers. When the work is classified or involves sensitive trade secrets companies often also institute strict rules against bringing smartphones into the workspace – as these could easily be turned into unwitting listening devices.
But researchers in Israel have devised a new method for stealing data that bypasses all of these protections—using the GSM network – electromagnetic waves and a basic low-end mobile phone. The researchers are calling the finding a ‘breakthrough’ in extracting data from air-gapped systems and say it serves as a warning to defense companies and others that they need to immediately ‘change their security guidelines and prohibit employees and visitors from bringing devices capable of intercepting RF signals’ says Yuval Elovici- director of the Cyber Security Research Center at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev – where the research was done.