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Fraunhofer devises tool to gauge electromagnetic attacks

04 Dec 2013

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Those affected by the attack can use this information to mount a rapid and appropriate protective response," explains researcher Michael Jöster. The threat scenarios are real: criminals disrupt computer networks of banks, exchanges, and companies. They cause confusion in order to bypass monitoring points or overcome alarm systems, enabling them to penetrate into secure areas. Individual cases of these kinds of attacks have already been documented: thieves used electromagnetic waves to crack the security systems of limousines in Berlin. Their weapons are no larger than a suitcase. High-power microwave sources are suitable for those kinds of attacks, for example. Depending on the field strength, the attacker using these high-power microwaves can be located several meters from the target of the attack.

Electronic devices can withstand a certain amount of radiation. This is measured in volts per metre (V/m) – called the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). Otherwise, they would not operate reliably. Every device could interfere with others in its immediate vicinity. Depending on the category of usage, they therefore have to fulfil specific EMC requirements. These are significantly higher for industrial applications than for common things like Smartphones, televisions, or stereo equipment. One example where safety is important is automotive engineering. "The importance of electronic components will continue to increase in the future. Completely shielding individual devices from electromagnetic radiation would certainly be theoretically possible, but much too expensive though. Systems are needed that can detect these kinds of attacks. If you know what is attacking, you can also react correctly to it," according to Jöster.


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