Posted on June 3, 2018 at 3:48 PM
According to researchers’ new discoveries, it would seem that there is a possibility of various sonic interferences actually messing up and crashing hard drives, as well as Windows and Linux. The fault seems to be lying in a new generation of sensitive components like HDDs. With this in mind, an entirely new field of cyber attacks can become a possibility, if the hackers start using sonic and ultrasonic attacks.
New hardware flaw might be used for sonic attacks
Having hard drive crash is nothing new when it comes to computers, laptops, and similar devices. The fault often lies in thermal stress, constant cooling and heating of the physical components of the device, or damage from being knocked, dropped, or damaged in some other way.
Recently, however, the researchers at Zhejiang University and the University of Michigan have uncovered that there might be more to these constant crashes than simply overworking the device. According to them, the new models of hard drives might be more susceptible to various interferences coming from sound waves. Some components of our devices, HDDs for example, might be more vulnerable to sound than we realized.
Obviously, this can grow to be quite a problem, if the hackers decide to add this method to their attack arsenal.
According to the report posted by the researchers, the ultrasonic and sonic sound waves might even go as far as to cause some serious damage to computer systems. Getting your system damaged can be as simple as playing the sound waves via cheap and unreliable speakers, which would then continue to disrupt the writing and reading processes of HDDs. After being affected by the sound, devices with Windows or Linux systems would probably need a reboot in order to resume their normal functions.
This hypothesis was tested by the researchers on Dell XPS 15 9550, and during their tests, they were playing various sounds through the speakers built into the device. After 45 seconds, the system stopped responding, and an entire reboot was needed after only two minutes of being exposed. The same tests were repeated on Ubuntu 16.04 and Windows 10, and the results were pretty similar. The tests have proved that sound waves can actually be used as a means of future DDoS attacks since they have proved to be a great challenge for the magnetic HDDs to handle.
Problems and solutions
Following this discovery, the researchers quickly came up with a solution, and they have made and modeled a new controller of feedback. According to them, it can be used as a firmware update, which would reduce the interferences caused by the sound waves.
Using sound waves as a form of an attack might have much greater consequences if the issue doesn’t get fixed in the future models of various devices. For example, they can be used to disrupt the data centers, as well as different medical devices. Still, everyone would be able to hear the attack coming, which would allow them to prepare for it. Alternatively, the attack can be effective if nobody can see it coming. For example, if a computer ends up on a malicious web page that would then start playing disruptive sounds, it might damage the device.
The bigger concern might lie with ultrasonic sounds since humans would have much more difficulties detecting them. Luckily, however, the attack’s performance largely depends on the waves’ strength, and right now, regular DDoS attacks are still much easier and more effective.