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Noise Floor: Exploring the world of unintentional radio emissions

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Noise Floor: Exploring the world of unintentional radio emissions
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If it's electronic, it makes noise. Not necessarily noise that you and I can hear, of course -- unless you know how to tune in. The air around us is filled with bloops, bleeps, and bzzts of machines going about their business, betraying their existence through walls or even from across the street. The unintentional noise lurking among intentional signals can even reveal what the machine is currently doing when it thinks it's keeping that information to itself. Attacks exploiting electromagnetic radiation, such as TEMPEST, have long been known, but government-sized budgets are no longer needed to procure the radio equipment. USB television receiver dongles can be used as software-defined radios (SDR) that cost less than a slice of Raspberry Pi. The goal of this talk is to show you that anyone with twenty bucks and some curiosity can learn a great deal about your computers and other equipment without ever leaving a trace, and you shouldn't neglect this risk when managing your organization's security. Melissa Elliott (better known as 0xabad1dea) is a professional security bug finder who has seen unspeakable horrors in corporate codebases from around the world. Her very name causes systems to crash, especially ones that use jQuery. Her hobbies include programming the Nintendo Entertainment System, criticizing other people's C code, and an interest in radio emissions that resulted from a trip to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.
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everybody first time talk and I always thought that my first talk would be on some amazing bug that I found but all my bugs are under NDA unfortunately so I'm here to talk about something else that I discovered not even working and InfoSec but studying astronomy in college that stuck with me for several years and now here we are to talk about its security implications and how many of you were at the talk where Jen savage demonstrated breaking into a toy bunny that has a webcam it's a baby monitor so that reminded me of something that happened when I was about six or seven years old my father had gotten a radio scanner for listening to the emergency radio the police in the fire and he was messing around with it and he accidentally tuned into something that was not the police at all or at least you hope it wasn't the police because it was a woman screaming for mercy and a man threatening to kill her he had tuned into a baby monitor and he called the cops and they came and they saved her and there was a happy ending now a baby monitor is an intentional omission it's supposed to do that but it's really easy to forget that it's broadcasting to the entire neighborhood I bet you a dollar that man never thought for a moment that there was a bug broadcasting to the neighborhood in that room as he threatened to kill his wife and it's a good thing he didn't remember that but it's a good point for all of us to remember in general so we are here to
talk about unintentional radio emissions the ones that it doesn't say on the box is doing and spoiler alert every device that you own is screaming its name into the infinite void on invisible magical ether all waves [Music] and although the whole the whole sideshow doesn't have an animated background I promise so I'm a bad idea
my other name is Melissa I work at very code doing binary analysis I'm accused of destroying infrastructure to it I don't actually have pink hair in real life several people have told me I should remedy this but and so what are
we actually talking about we're talking about how you without any formal training or expensive equipment can learn how to check what sort of noise your devices are generating radio
emissions their magic if you actually need to know how they work talk to a physicist I'm an engineer but all of your electronics are naturally generating them they're everywhere they are filling the air so a lot of people haven't heard of it there's no cell phone towers there are no FM music stations there is nothing it is a horrible place for a teenage girl to be that's where I swear I went to learn some about Radio Astronomy I'll talk about that later but let me tell you 48 hours straight with no access to the Internet at all and these are the
devices were going to be using you can get these for as little as 10 and yes it runs on Linux yes it runs on Raspberry Pi they are radios that have a wide tuning range and they dump the raw signal to software so you can process it and you
really really don't need to know anything about radio engineering I realized a few months ago I had become a radio engineering script kitty Wow I I don't know anything if what a little bit about radio science just like script kiddies know a little bit about computers but you have ten bucks you will in order from China if you're not do you have 20 bucks and there are Python bindings I wrote a script it's really easy anyone with basic technical knowledge can get into
this and the chipset that I would recommend it's called the the RTL 2832 you whatever the RTL SDR SDR stands for software-defined radio and they are mass produced for tuning into television in various countries which is why they have such a broad shooting range they have no intelligence on the chip that's why they're ten dollars and you have to use software to make something of the signal and if there's anyone who has a problem
with the word radio dongle I am sorry I'm going to be saying dongle several times there's a these are what they look
like on the inside they're very simple they're very easy to fry made my first one rest in peace it met its demise when I plugged it into an Android tablet after reading that you should use a powered USB hub between in the radio because it doesn't have enough power I said what can go wrong tried it anyway it it's broken so there are different models and they have different ranges but on general they go from around 50 60 megahertz all the way up to like 2.2 gigahertz so this is a huge range and a huge value for a ten-dollar radio that even a couple years ago this would not have been accessible without quite an investment and the website you can bulk orders on from as I did is called Aliexpress it's a little bit shady but I've gotten all my packages so far when they have a pal
female connector by the way not very common in this but your Radio Shack should carry connectors if you want to plug in your bunny ears like grandma used to have and why do we care well I think the NSA might care you've heard a tempest that's real some people think it's not real they've been doing this for decades this is courtesy one mr. sonoda and you might have heard of them it says communications and other information that's not communications such as equipment emanations maybe they have a secret different meaning they seem to for every other word but I think that sounds like radio emissions of devices sounds like they're storing them if anyone in the NSA would like to tell me differently I'd be very glad to discuss that with them and another common
misconception is that tempest only applies to CRT screens not true that's the famous demo tuning into someone CRT seeing everything the first example of Tempest was a teletypewriter a typewriter they could recover the letters of what was being tight from across the street you can still do this in 2009 these are I cannot pronounce French names please forgive me they released a paper eavesdropping on normal USB keyboards on laptop keyboards and wireless keyboards getting full plaintext recovery from across the office building so this is real this is an actual problem it's not purely theoretical and you deserve to know that
you deserve to be able to evaluate your devices for how susceptible they are to it and this is a lot of fun for 10 and you probably aren't breaking any laws maybe so about that
there are a lot of laws about radio tuners they vary from place to place there are basically arbitrary limitations on certain frequencies if you want to check them out fortunately just tuning in to things it's mostly passive and mostly difficult to detect that URL if you want to check out the slides afterwards goes to some graduate students detecting passive tuners so they're not entirely passive at all but you know play it safe obey all laws for example one that applies
here in America scanning receivers and frequency converters designed or marketed for youths with scanning receivers shall be incapable of and it goes on for several paragraphs and it basically says do not tuned to areas reserved for cellphones unless you are an actual cellphone so don't do this do
not type the number eight to four and hit enter [Music] [Music] so we understand it's your first time speaking at Def Con this is true how would you like your Jack Daniels I'm afraid I cannot drink sir all right somebody's wait who's your husband in the audience and do you drink sir [Music] Oh your first Def Con all right well you'd have to do a double because you're both we have decided to brand this little exercise you've heard of spot the Fed this is shot the noob there will be t-shirts thanks to to everybody who's do a Def Con have a nice talk thank you sir I was afraid Nels gonna get banned there for a second I swear that's just a gif I I drew it by hand I'd never actually typed that number in but I mean no one's ever actually gone to jail for and coming an integer right it doesn't happen we're safe so I
managed to go most of my life not knowing that my electronics were all leaking all of this signal that details what they're getting up to and they're private little electronic lives the reason I found out is because I went to play with this Green Bank telescope it
is considered the largest mobile object in the world chips don't count because they get the float it is the size of a football field it tilts from Horizon horizon rotates all the way around they used it to list in their outer space and so the truth is they only let me play
with the 40-foot dish but I bet none of you have a 40 foot dish so so what I
learned while I was there is that their biggest challenge to getting the science done is the very electronics that they need to measure and process the signal because those same electronics blast the signal out of the sky just to give you an idea they had to get a special budget approval to have a microwave oven they have a microwave oven which is a Faraday cage inside another Faraday cage inside another room which is also a Faraday cage that is how much they had to shield things just so they could reheat their pizza 2:00 a.m. and they have an entire copper room and it's very creepy out of a girl who had a panic attack because it feels like you're being locked away forever you open the door you go in there's another door yeah and you're field in this copper room it's just you know sealing the floor all around all copper and everything is self-contained and then yeah I couldn't blame her but
and speaking of noisy electronics I have brought my little friend if you follow me on Twitter you might have seen it before this is the 50 dollar netbooks I'm China which I caught on fire we will not discuss how it caught fire it's not relevant however what's relevant is that it has no shielding I'm pretty sure that this violates FCC from rule 1 to the last they did have a conniption if they knew I imported it and this is the part where he gets his a live demo and freddo's Lee in the front row is not going to turn on his hack RF [Music]
so I'm going to tune to an FM radio station let's see what's here in Vegas I don't want that to loud on you that's what musics I dunno [Music] so uh do you see all those little spikes that ones there like a minute ago I was afraid that the contracts might not be very good but there are lots of spikes that weren't there until I turn this on and
there how's that [Music] those if you zoom in there is watch the natural jitter but they are between 32 and 33 kilohertz apart does anyone know about anything that has a clock speed how about an actual clock so a real-time clock [Music] sorry a real-time clock has a frequency usually of about 32 point 768 good round number oh and I had to screenshot all
this because I was convinced I was gonna set it on fire again which didn't happen
however I'm afraid the charger isn't working anymore as of about an hour ago when I plugged it into a strip I found lying around Def Con so this may be the terrible laptops last stand so there's
very zoomed in and not dancing around so
the real-time clock that's probably what I'm picking up and it just blasts its existence all over my FM radio stations so okay it has
a real-time clock that's that's amazing everything does how about something a little more interesting what how do you look for interesting things your electronics are giving off it's mostly guesswork and a good place to start is by randomly multiplying numbers together which worked out really well so the
screen on this little thing is a stunning 800 by 480 pixels you know they're three bytes 8-bit so that's 24 bits per pixel they're being conveyed on a ribbon cable inside if you add all those numbers off you get you know you about nine megahertz that's a little bit below what my radio could tune to so I couldn't tune to see if there was anything there and then but there's another factor and that's the refresh rate I don't actually know this thing's
are frustrate Windows CE e6 that is what this runs does not report the refresh rate it's pirate edition by the way I'm pretty sure [Music] but I don't think I've ever seen in LCD lower than 60 or higher than 75 so that gives us you know a range of about 150 megahertz to sift through there are actually several places I can pick up the signal I'm going to show you but I'm going to show you the one that I think is best [Music]
[Music] that look like something [Music] [Music] I'm logging in I'm sure it's really secure oh did it change unfortunately this doesn't have a DisplayPort so you're gonna have to trust me it was a very bland login screen and now it has a very lovely Pokemon wallpaper and you'll see the color change because I have a very very small antenna it's the free one that came with my radio so I'm sure the the people you actually need to worry about do not have the free four inch antenna that came with their ten dollar radio [Music] but I think I'm gonna go do some word processing and the signal actually went very flat it's mostly gone I'm going to go open pirate PowerPoint [Music] so thank you I do have other antennas but [Music] alright I'll use it you gave me one of a loose connector actually all the pie laughs female of the pal female connectors or you soul don't stay together good enough but I have the word processor open it's a not very exciting mostly white screen and this thing is slow as heck so office presentations yes I would like to restore this I may have cut the power and uh gee that looks different I have a nice checkerboard effect going on on my powerpoint [Music] and now it's black because it's loading and the signal mostly goes away and a presentation you cheated me so the touchpad on this thing is very treacherous so treacherous in fact that it ruined one of my demos I had found a frequency where you could hear as a touchpad when you touched it but it goes everything worked and I get here to Las Vegas and I double check it's gone I have no idea I'm gonna chalk it up to the it being so dry that's what seems to be the excuse for everything and so now the full screen is set checkerboard pattern and the I signal has broken down into very discreet lines now can you recover the screen from this I'm pretty sure you can unfortunately my radios sample rate is not very high but again I have a ten dollar radio so
there's my backup what we're actually
seeing is the signal transitions on the cable that feeds the screen I took this to one of my engineer engineer co-workers at work it's like okay how would you explain this he's like oh you're seeing when you get zeros and ones that's why when the signal it's all one color your single parent goes away especially like black at zero zero zero zero zero very exciting and so very specific patterns will create very noticeable signal patterns oh the screen went off by the way it's still there when the screens are as long as the computers on because I'm reading the cable that feeds to the LCD and this was
my best attempt at actually reconstructing the screen does that look like a checkerboard I think it looks like a checkerboard [Music] so that was the best I could manage with my toy Radio wrote a python script wrote out - they're plotting API maybe I'm doing it all wrong but so if the NSA is
here I'd like to file a FOIA request for their algorithms reconstructing screens I'm sure they've already figured all this out so as I said it's not just
screens it's uh I picked up touchscreen capacitive fields which have decided to stop working in Vegas you can pick up physical button presses like the keyboard set those gentlemen were scanning I showed you earlier the color of lights so you have green light red light on your secret machine that's locked away yeah don't do that microphones obviously especially wireless ones uh when I was at the source Boston conference I was running around recording people from across the building and then surprising them just like you were in my talk how did you get that mmm you can sometimes pick up ram so when I figured out I could see Ram I hugged the antenna around my neck and went around the office popped into offices you know all this equipment hanging off my neck like excuse me sir can you tell me what model of MacBook that is like it's last year's like oh oh is it this one yeah like hang on tuned to my radio and I see the little grid of lines right where I expect to be like thank you leave look what is she doing so basically you can pick up everything to some extent so that's what Ram looks
like it just makes a very creek read so like this tablet that I'm presenting on it has 1600 megahertz Ram and I couldn't find it at 1600 megahertz and I was confused and I found it at 800 megahertz I'm like oh I guess that's because it's the old channel and I've had some people explain to me what that actually means because I hadn't actually thought about Ram since about I think 2003 was the last time I actually put Ram into a computer all the ones I bought since then up in tablets I know right so this
one is interesting cuz I don't actually know what's being picked up this is my macbook air opening chrome from when it hasn't been already opened and as in RAM and it has like a zillion tabs and I get these very interesting supports from across the room sports being a technical term so across the room with my little orange antenna I can pick up that my MacBook Air was opening Chrome I'm like well it must be the processor and I ran a benchmark stress - stress test the processor didn't like it must be the harddrive loading all the cached files so I open big files don't get it so I don't actually know what's causing it but it's there
this is a microphone I don't remember who this is they might even be in this room now but this was someone talking at source Boston when I say there was informed consent I mean everyone knew I was up to something but I I maintain I was not violating Massachusetts wiretapping laws now when I accidentally tuned into the Blue Man Group well that was an accident this is my
iPhone when I'm connecting to Twitter I was able to find this telltale signal I tried to reproduce it here but for some reason the network here is really unstable and then here's another view
not far from it a few banger hurts up of my phone you know I turned off the wireless so it's forced at the 3G connect to Twitter and then for exactly the duration that that little spinning icon was on my phone this was on the air so I could see when you know an iPhone was actually downloading data now hopefully my 3G connection the Verizon is encrypted if not we need to talk but
even if it's encrypted I can still see that it's happening I can still see oh there's someone connecting over Verizon from a cell phone so different types of devices can be profiled for their activity and then after you know exactly what they do you can detect them you can see them through walls you can triangulate them in 3d space almost like they're radio transmitters that you're carrying because they are so it's trivial to distinguish when one of these machines is idle and when it's active if you carefully study it you can distinguish between different kinds of active States and an advanced adversary can probably very finally distinguish between active States so what I've been carrying around
the come an iPhone 4s Nexus 7 a Nintendo 3ds max book air do you think anyone else here has exactly that combination of gadgets if you do we should prolly be friends so if someone knew exactly what my brand preferences are and they could pinpoint me in the crowd if they had all the equipment set up ahead of time which is again we're talking about the adversary the NSA so even if I turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth this is still possible I mean they say Oh turn off Bluetooth so they can't see your phone it helps you're no longer screaming at the top of your lungs that your phone is there but you're still saying my phone is here my phone is definitely here and this has been proven to work in the real world
now this uses Wi-Fi because that's the same across all devices it's a standard it's loud and reliable this screenshot is of a system tracking people as they move through a store by following the Wi-Fi beacons that their phones are giving off so the camera can correlate to the person by their phone's Wi-Fi signal and this is you may have heard on the news Nordstrom trialed this and then people actually found it kind of creepy when they found out and they start but it's implemented it works
oh they said they'd stop gosh what I get for trusting them so this is why the the paranoid types are like take out the battery don't just turn off the phone take off the battery because they're worried about this sort of thing so we're I'm gonna take out the battery on my I am why my iPhone doesn't have a removable battery so what I can do is a make like a shoplifter and get some booster bags not suspicious at all you can find them on the internet labeled as like cellphone blockers or some of them call them like cell phone etiquette wrappers because your cell phone won't ring during dinner you can use tinfoil but I found that grocery store tinfoil I had to wrap it around like six or seven times before my iPhone even lost its wireless signal so I would recommend actually getting the stuff advertised for blocking this stuff and then I will show you you could use these radios to actually test that it's working and if they didn't just sell you shiny cloths so what can you do you need to have a completely private talk empty everyone's pockets and put everything in your microwave oven do not run it and close the door a microwave oven is not a hundred percent effective but it makes a pretty good difference considering it's 40 bucks and you already have one or two or three but they're only rated to shield you from certain frequencies enough so it's not dangerous however it works pretty well if you put an FM radio in and close the door you should lose your signal and not hear the whatever that music was we were hearing and snipping off the cable off the back of a microwave should improve its Faraday page property slightly I did not want to ruin my microwave and go get another one so I did not actually test this but it should work but I did learn
if you want to put a device in a Faraday cage and then run a cable out either for power or for Internet keep that cable as short as possible so when I first heard like I'm gonna go test my microwave to make sure it actually works I put my radio in there and closed the door and the signal just barely drops a little bit like this barely works at all and I finally realized I had a six foot USB cable dangling out of the microwave oven and it's a shielded cable it says so on the wrapper but I could still pick up my local radio stations loud and clear inside a Faraday cage because I had a six foot cable on the outside feeding into it I wrapped it all up and moved the microwave closer to my computer so that it was now like six inches outside and the rest was inside and suddenly I lost the signal so that was how I learned yeah those wires dangling out of the cage they're antennas in also when something says it's shielded it means that shielded enough not to break not shielded enough not to pick up your local music station so you can use even
these 10.00 SDRs to check like okay is this ferret a wrapper for my phone actually working is my phone giving off weird signals I wrote a Python scripts you scan through a range and look for signals that I ran when it was in the Faraday cage I think I couldn't prove it quite a bit someone who knows a lot more about radio couldn't prove it quite a bit how am i doing on time okay great and in the process you will learn that there are trillions of devices broadcasting weird things in your neighborhood and you will start to lose sleep over them what is that thing because beep-beep every three minutes I don't know so this is what my highly
scientific setup looked like it it says science station right on it it's legit so so you know two microwave oven a computer and this little USB cable as possible and if you're using Windows I
recommend you use the interactive program called SDR sharp for this for Macintosh and Linux gqr X I don't know what that stands for if anything the first one is probably good new after that I'm lost and these are based on the command-line utilities the rtl-sdr library and you can use those utilities directly or write things that use them and they have pretty simple Python bindings that I was very pleased with these links are all in the CD we see they are I don't actually own a computer of a CD drive for about five years now
so oils can you do well the US government has helpfully compiled its guidelines for being resistant to this and you can find them on Wikipedia there's also the French and the German have their own guidelines if you want to compare but the their key takeaway is correlated emissions are bad correlated emissions means it changes when something on the machine changes that leaks information you don't want that so ask your landlady about copper plating for your bedroom I'm sure it will go over really well so my co-worker said I
had to throw in this story relating to LEDs will this play oh come on no go
back so that's supposed to be a movie
that shows the lights changing color at work we have a rainbow tree that someone made it's a metal tree that has all these LEDs in it and it's powered by Arduino and it goes through these patterns right and I like to sit under it at work because it's like your own little private disco and so shortly after I got my radio and I was delighting and discovering things around the office I sat under that tree and suddenly my single just like and then the rainbow tree changed what pattern it was doing it was like you choose to do just itchin like oh cool I can hear what color is on the on the tree is playing by this radio interference so I'm saying oh my headphones are on like wow someone comes my looks at me like what are you doing I'm listening to the tree I can hear the colors like she's finally credits we always knew she would she's cracked and so uh
if this doesn't left you feeling a little more paranoid I don't know what else I can say to scare you so if security researchers all seem a bit twitchy this is why because we think about this stuff at 3 in the morning like oh no what if what if they come for me I I accidentally tune into the Blue Man groups and radio and that might have violated Massachusetts wiretapping longer gonna find me it was really creepy by the way when I accidentally tuned into their performance group I tuned into their walkie-talkies and I didn't know who I had found it first all I heard was all right Nancy now stand there get down on your knees and hold that position what did I just hear and then I figured out I was hearing their light their Lighting Group practicing you know like will we need dramatic lighting at this spot so go stand there and hold that weird position for five minutes I was like ok ok and I'm not even positive it was the Blue Man Group but I could see their big sign from the window so that's probably who I accidentally tune into so as another reminder walkie talkies radios wireless phones the baby monitors those are all in the clear
police radio usually in the clear I heard some interesting things here the other night that's not surprising at all [Music] but those are all intentional emissions are supposed to do that and people don't even remember that they're doing that so people are not going to remember that their devices are leaking all this information journalists should take note whistleblowers should take notes all of you innocent people who never do anything illegal should take note and you can take steps very simple steps you know wrap it in the foil take these 10 radios and give it a spin see what you can find and you might even find something really interesting on a really good device that's effectively zero day you know it's someone down the street can get information leakage out of this device do we do see these for that I don't even know and I have brought with me a few of these radios because I got a whole crate of them from China for a hundred bucks and I don't plan on frying all of them so I figured I should give a feel away I'll give one to the first person who comes up to me and tells me what my favorite color is and I hear all of you shouting the wrong one who said orange Larry cash dollar I know you that's cheating [Music] [Music] but I'm probably gonna head across to the the Q&A room if I can figure out where that is I almost didn't find the speaker room earlier I'm very good with maps and maybe if you come and say something intelligent and thought-provoking I will give you one of my radios