Data transfers via SATA cables can be eavesdropped on

Researchers from Israel were able to eavesdrop on the data transfer via a SATA cable using a complex method.

Scientists at the University of Negev in Israel have managed to secretly eavesdrop on data being transmitted over a SATA cable. In a paper, the researchers show that hackers can use the widespread SATA protocol to gain access to data that runs over the same cable. In this case, the SATA cable used serves as a transmitter with which the data is transmitted in the 6 GHz band.

SATA cable as antenna

However, there are major limitations: it takes a lot of effort to attack. In addition, there must be physical access to the computer to be attacked. If the data is to be tapped permanently, the effort increases even more. Another prerequisite for the attack is the installation of malware that uses the SATA cable as a transmitter of radio signals. The cable from the hard drive to the mainboard then serves as an antenna with a very limited range.

Just a meter range

The method could still be of interest to whistleblowers who already have access to a particular system. Compared to the test run in the laboratory, however, further stumbling blocks are to be expected in practice. The receiver must be placed within a maximum of one meter. Electromagnetic shielding of the systems would also thwart the attack. And if data carriers with a different interface are used in the computer instead of SATA or SAS systems, the attack also no longer works. Encrypting the data carrier would also make eavesdropping impossible. In particular, computers with security-relevant information should be secured accordingly.

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