Every conscious citizen is aware of the fact that noise pollution is having a poisonous effect on our hearing power. At the same time, it is causing different other health issues to us. In a recently conducted research, it is seen that the noise can have fatal impact on your hard drives too. Both sonic and ultrasonic (sound frequency that is above human audibility limit of 20, 000 kHz) acoustic interference can badly damage hard disks physically. This has become a matter of concern Attackers can easily exploit this technique. They can take control of built-in speakers of a system or speakers situated near the magnetic disks to cause harm to those disks. Explore through this blog how you can Protect Hard Drive from Sonic and Ultrasonic Attack
Overview of the Research : Blue Note
This research has been conducted jointly by a group of researchers who belong to University of Michigan (USA) and Zhejiang University (China). The findings of the research have been published in a paper titled “Blue Note: How Intentional Acoustic Interference: Damages Availability and Integrity in Hard Disk Drives and Operating Systems.” This paper states how sound waves are not far behind from becoming a weapon that can target and destroy any addressed HDD. Last month, the outcome of this research has been presented at a symposium in San Fransisco, USA. Last year, a similar kind of research has been done by the researchers of Purdue University and Princeton University. That research manifested how something called “acoustic resonance” can be exploited to conduct a DoS (denial-of-service) attack on Hard Drives.
What Happens During Sonic and Ultrasonic Attack
The main technique behind the sound is the vibration. We hear sound when it makes vibration in any medium like air, liquid, or solid component. Sonic sound will cause vibration in the drive heads. In case of ultrasonic sounds, the shock sensor will receive false positive signal. Now, this shock sensor is developed to protect the HDD heads from crashing. During this attack, the head of the drive will park at a wrong position. Any acoustic signal that has been crafted intentionally will harm this internal part of HDD and thus, cause the system depending on the HDD to fail. Apart from cheap desktop speakers or laptop speakers, tunes played by websites or tones hidden in phishing messages can be orchestrated by the attackers.
How the Research Has Been Conducted
Researchers have used three of the top Hard Disk Drive makers of today’s world – Western Digital (WD), Seagate & Toshiba. All these drives became irresponsive after the attack (conducted for the purpose of research) in two of the most popular Operating Systems – Windows and Linux.
According to the team of researchers, a Western Digital HDD was needed to be exposed to 117.2 dB sound to make it experience maximum damage during the test. In another test with Dell XPS 15 9550 laptops, it has been exposed to 103 dB SPL (Sound Pressure Level) from the distance of 1 cm. Though none of the drives of that laptop stopped working completely, one drive experienced a scratch that is humanly visible in bare eyes. Moreover, the sectors of all drives experienced extensive remapping.
Apart from traditional hard drives of the system, other entities can be affected by this type of noise, as seen in the research. In a case study by the researchers, even the latest version of Google Chrome allows victims to access malicious websites that play sound without permission. Another example could be the video surveillance system that was exposed to such an attack by researchers. The consequence of this attack was data loss and the drive failed to resume recording till a complete reboot has been done.
How to You can Protect Hard Drive from Sonic and Ultrasonic Attack
The way cyber attackers are spreading their reach these days, no one can claim to be safe from any type of attacks. That is why users should adopt maximum preventive measures to protect their hard disk drives. In case of hard drive crash & data loss, the best way is to go for Hard Drive Recovery solutions. In order to protect hard disks from the sonic and ultrasonic noise, researchers have suggested some preventive measures. Among them, some significant ones are:
- Attack detection with the help of sensor fusion
- Reducing the signal by using “noise dampening materials”
- Use of attenuation controllers in susceptible frequency bands