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Fraunhofer devises tool to gauge electromagnetic attacks

04 Dec 2013

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Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Technological Trend Analysis INT in Germany have devised a measuring instrument that can gauge the strength, frequency, and direction of electromagnetic attacks, which can interfere with or damage electronic devices.

Electromagnetic pulses change the voltage in a certain vicinity so that regulators, switches, and circuit boards in electronic equipment fail to function properly. One cannot smell, taste, or feel this radiation. Those affected by it do not know why computers or machines breakdown, or from which direction the attack comes.

The research team is concentrating on the question of how these attacks can be detected. The engineering requirements for the test are steep: the detector must measure very high field strengths from very short pulses, yet not be destroyed or damaged itself.

Fraunhofer devises tool to gauge electromagnetic attacks

Figure 1: Tools for defending against electromagnetic attack (right to left): an antenna set (on tripod) for sensing the environment, a RF measuring device for conditioning the signals and a computer that calculates the relevant data.

Four specialised antennas make up the INT demonstration instrument that sample the environment around the subject device to be protected. Each of these covers a quadrant of 90 degrees and detects all types of electromagnetic sources. A high-frequency module preconditions the signals for measurement and determines when the electromagnetic pulse started and stopped. A computer in a monitoring station connected via an optical conductor then calculates the values for the signal and presents them on a screen. "We identify the type and location of the source of the invisible attack as well as its duration as though we had a sixth sense.

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