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TSCM: Sounds to Damage Hard Drives

Security researchers have been demonstrating how sound and ultrasonic noise can be leveraged to cause physical damage to hard drives. In fact playing ultrasonic sounds through the computers own speaker can cause physical damage and device failures by interfering with the hard drives operation.

One of the things we recommend when purchasing computing platforms for highly secured environments is to remove the microphone and PC speaker if present to prevent eavesdropping attacks and this same action will render this attack impossible since there will be no speaker available to generate the ultrasonic signal.

Here are a few other tips that you can employ to prevent these types of attacks:

  • Disconnect any speakers and microphones in the computer

  • Ensure that your TSCM team examines for ultrasonic and subsonic attacks

  • Ensure that the computer is scanned for malware and viruses regularly

  • Ensure you have whole network protection to prevent malware infections

In the demonstrated attack a speaker hanging from the ceiling over 4 feet away was used to carry out the destructive attack. It took just 12 seconds to cause the hard drive to fail and the process was repeatable.

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