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Malware uses router LEDs to steal data from secure networks

2017-06-07 10:31 by
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Researchers from Ben-Gurion University in Israel have discovered a way to transmit data through LEDs of network devices, such as routers. As part of a recent research project, the cybersecurity experts created proof-of-concept malware that used those tiny lights to stealthily steal data.

By injecting the malware into a router's firmware, the researchers turn the infected router into a transmitter of data via its LED array. The various blinking LED lights on the router will then begin transmitting binary data via a program called xLed. The binary code is represented by LED on cycles as "1's" and LED off cycles as "0's". The more lights on a router, the faster that the malware can pilfer data; up to at a rate of more than 1000 bit/sec per LED.

As a result, a significant amount of highly sensitive information can be encoded and leaked over the fast LED signals, which can be received and recorded by a remote camera or light sensor. The malware is sophisticated enough to be selective in what type of data it sends.

"Sensitive data can be encoded and sent via the LED light pulses in various ways," said Mordechai Guri, the head of research and development at the BGU CSRC. "An attacker with access to a remote or local camera, or with a light sensor hidden in the room, can record the LED's activity and decode the signals."

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