Researchers find way to spy on remote screens—through the webcam mic

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Enlarge / That web cam could be giving up what’s on your screen, if the person on the other end is listening the right way—with the help of some machine learning and your monitor’s coil whine. (credit: Ken Fisher / Getty Images)

Synesthesia”: a side-channel attack that can reveal the contents of a remote screen, providing access to potentially sensitive information based solely on “content-dependent acoustic leakage from LCD screens.”

The research, supported by the Check Point Institute for Information Security at Tel Aviv University (of which Schuster and Tromer are members) and funded in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, examined what amounts to an acoustic form of Van Eck phreaking. While Van Eck phreaking uses radio signal emissions that leak from display connectors, the Synesthesia research leverages “coil whine,” the audio emissions from transformers and other electronic components powering a device’s LCD display.

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