TEMPEST: Transient Electromagnetic Pulse Emanation Surveillance Technology (fwd)

James Daugherty (jhdaugh@a-albionic.com)
Wed, 21 Aug 1996 07:22:17 -0400 (EDT)

> Subject: <LD: Temptest Technology
> Rise of the TEMPEST
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> by Sarah Ellerman
> Reprinted from - Internet UnderGround Magazine
> June 1996 Edition Pg. 42 thru 46
> The unmarked government van slows and stops. The agent inside puts
> down his coffee and starts in on the day's work: monitoring John
> Doe's computer, 10 blocks away. John is busy working on his Mac with
> the curtains pulled against the morning sunlight. The agent watches
> with great interest as John reads through the cryptography and
> privacy newsgroups, then downloads some fiction from
> alt.sex.stories. Everything that flashes by on John's monitor is
> videotaped for later review: the balance and payees of John's
> checking account, some decrypted e-mail that John assumed was
> private and an illegal copy of Adobe Photoshop.
> Is this scenario making you take stock of what appears on your
> computer screen? We all indulge in vices large and small, mentally
> shrugging, "Who will ever know?" In everyday life, we usually manage
> to keep our transgressions secret, but when it comes to information
> flitting across our computer screens, the answer is that there are
> no secrets, thanks to a relatively new, obscure form of surveillance
> that's a threat to your privacy and your civil rights. It's so
> secret that the Feds refuse to even release its real name. Privacy
> advocates have filled the void by nicknaming this technology
> "TEMPEST," which stands for "Transient Electromagnetic Pulse
> Emanation Surveillance Technology." What it does is allow a simple
> scanning device to read the output from your monitor from up to one
> kilometer away. No one ever need enter your house to plant a bug or
> copy your floppies; it's non invasive and virtually undetectable.
> You won't even know what hit you until your name gets put on a list
> of troublemakers or the marshals come busting down your door.
> Here's how it works: There is an electron gun in the back of your
> monitor which repeatedly fires electrons at your screen, causing
> different pixels to illuminate and form the text or graphics that
> you see. The gun sweeps rapidly up and down, sending an
> electromagnetic signal which constantly refreshes the information
> displayed on the screen. This signal doesn't stop at the perimeter
> of your computer; it continues expanding outwards, seeping through
> the ether much like a radio wave. Exposed cables act as inadvertent
> antennas, transmitting the contents of your screen across your
> neighborhood. Information even travels back along modem lines and
> power cords, back into the walls and out into the world. These
> signals can be easily reconstructed. What's more, a spy can
> differentiate between many different units operating in the same
> room. The signals don't conflict or jam each other as one might
> suspect. Even identical units send out distinct signals because of
> slight differ ences in the manufacturing of various components. You
> may not think it, but your PC is hardly a self-contained unit
> storing information privy to you alone. In fact, you're better off
> thinking of it as a small-scale broadcast station operating out of
> your house.
> You may think, "So what if someone can see a screen?" Consider the
> test conducted by security professionals at the Technical Assistance
> Group at http://www. thecodex.com who actually jury-rigged their own
> Tempest scanning device and took it for a test drive in downtown
> Manhattan this spring. As described in an essay by CEO Frank Jones,
> their "DataScan" device (four years in the making) enabled them to
> "view CRT screens at ATM machines, banks, the local state lottery
> machine in a neighborhood candy store, a doctor's office, the local
> high school, the fire department, the local police department doing
> a DMV license plate check, a branch office of a securities trader
> making a stock trade and the local gas station (owner) tallying up
> his day's receipts...The U.S. Customs building (in NYC) leaks
> information as well as the Federal Reserve. Wall Street itself was a
> wealth of information for anyone interested. The World Trade Center
> was fertile. It afforded open parking areas nearby with millions of
> glass windows to snoop. We headed east toward the New York Post
> newspaper offices and read the latest news off their monitors (which
> was printed the next day). We headed north toward City Hall and NYPD
> Police Headquarters. Guess what? They're not Tempest-certified
> either...Neither is the United Nations, any of the midtown banks,
> Con Edison (the power company), New York Telephone on 42nd Street or
> Trump Tower!"
> Although this kind of eavesdropping has been featured in the media,
> most people are unaware of the ease with which spies can virtually
> look over their shoulder. Most react with incredulity swelling into
> anger and fear when the technology is demonstrated to them. However,
> specialists agree that the average person should not be unduly
> concerned with being spied on. "No, by and large it's not used to
> crack down on the common criminal," says Winn Schwartau, author of
> Information Warfare and Security Insider Report. "You've got to look
> at the expense that goes into one of these things, the eavesdropping
> vans and equipment. It's not cheap stuff to do at the very highest
> levels. As a number of prosecutors have told me, 'I wish so many
> people wouldn't be so paranoid. They don't know we don't have the
> time or the budget to waste on them.' I wouldn't worry for the
> individual reader; I'd worry for the corporation that has something
> of value."
> Mike, an electronic surveillance specialist (who requested that we
> not print his last name) and proprietor of the Chicago-area Discreet
> Electronics and Security, Inc. at http://www.w2.
> com/docs2/z/spyshop. html, also warns the public to keep things in
> perspective. "Let's say you are invaded, and there's an outrage at
> the invasion. It may be that your federal rights were violated...
> but so what?" he says. "One variable in how to assess
> countermeasures and detec tion devices is to figure out how much
> damage could happen to you as a result of your privacy being
> invaded." What could someone find out from your screen that would be
> of enough value or interest for them to go to the trouble and
> expense of getting a crack at your intellectual property? Pure
> curiosity? Unlikely. A nasty divorce or child custody case? The pur
> suit of a suspected hacker? A suspicion that you stole company
> secrets? Maybe. "If, on the other hand, you're involved in something
> that's rather political, if you're suing an insurance company for a
> $500,000 worker's compensation claim, boy, there's a lot involved
> here," Mike says. "And they're going to do whatever they have to,
> believe it or not, to get their information."
> Paranoid or protective U.S. citizens and companies can purchase
> snoop-proof" Tempest-certified" computers for their own use.
> However, the high cost of such a secure system may be prohibitive to
> consumers, says Jules Rutstein, program manager for Secure Systems
> at Wang Federal, Inc. Even after paying through the nose,
> information on how the computer was modified to meet the undisclosed
> emissions standards is top-secret. Wang, found at
> http://www.wangfed.com, a leading supplier of computers to the
> government, offers an affordable alternative to Tempest products,
> called ZONE. Rutstein explains, "The ZONE alternative is a lighter
> version of the full Tempest program. The ZONE program is actually an
> endorsed program under NSA (the National Security Agency.)" The cost
> of ZONE protection is significantly less than Tempest-certified
> units, but Rutstein wouldn't provide IU with definitive figures. "We
> try to price our ZONE products at what we consider commercial
> prices. I'm ambivalent because it's so difficult to pin down prices
> on PC products today...We've been selling it from the position that
> you can purchase a ZONE product for virtually the same price as a
> normal system. It's not costing you any more." IU pressed to find
> the exact difference between the products, but emission levels are
> top secret information, and ZONE can only be measured as relative to
> Tempest. It is probably safe to say that ZONE products would be
> acceptable for the average consumer's privacy needs, which is good
> news for those concerned enough with security to purchase a new
> computer. The bad news is that you don't have the highest level of
> security.
> Information about exactly how the process works is veiled. Seminars
> on building Tempest-certified equipment are only available to
> persons with certain security clearances, and rumor has it that
> people attempting to talk about Tempest are often silenced with the
> excuse that they're creating a security threat. Rutstein says,
> "Tempest is a munitions controlled item, which means that the export
> of the product is controlled. . . Currently the only foreign
> entities we sell to are NATO governments." These prohibitions
> protect the U.S. from acts of terrorism, but the secrecy surrounding
> Tempest specifications creates a dilemma for citizens. The
> government's reticence about standards prevents us from properly
> shielding the normal computers we already own. We can guess what
> kind of emissions they're giving off and try to suppress them, but
> without cold hard data, we can never rcally be sure. Most people
> don't even know of the existence of the technology, much less the
> exact shielding specifications. "It is not possible for the average
> person to go to a database and find out what is Tempest certified
> and what is not. I believe that perhaps that's the way the
> government wants it," says Jones of the Technical Assistance Group.
> Jones feels that citizens should be able to test emanations on their
> own. He points out that "there are several ways of blocking
> unintended transmissions, but how effective are they? The people who
> manufacture shielding always say, 'it's great, it's effective,' but
> you don't really know. But now there is a way to test it. We built a
> room and we used woven shielding with the DataScan device and it did
> block emissions, but it didn't block them to their specs. We had to
> use close to twice what they thought was secure to actually make the
> room secure." Mike of Discreet Electronics and Security, Inc. also
> comes out in favor of defensive countermeasures, saying, "Used in
> the application of creating awareness, to show how vulnerable let's
> say, a bank could be, it actually serves a very high and valuable
> purpose. The idea here is to create an awareness, because most
> people don't know, and what's frightening is that they don't know
> that they don't know."
> Jones says it's somewhat unclear whether citizens can lawfully
> monitor electromagnetic emanations. Depending on how one interprets
> the 1986 Electronic Communications and Privacy Act, it seems it
> could be legal. According to Jones, the 1986 measure covers, in
> depth, that "it is illegal to own, possess or use any device whose
> primary purpose is the surreptitious interception of ora/ or data
> communications." How does this apply to Tempest scanning devices?
> Well, that depends on how you define the word "data. "
> Tempest works by picking up computer emanations that happen to seep
> into the ether, remember? Those electrons were not created to
> transfer information to another party; rather, they were created for
> putting images on a computer screen, many theorize. "The emanations
> are not communications, it's not 'data' by the definition of the
> word," Jones says. "They are spurious emissions that are nothing but
> white noise. It's garbage."
> So what about the Act's clause that forbids the "interception of
> intended communications?" That's where things get complicated,
> Schwartau admits.
> "The key word there is 'intended,' that's exactly correct,"
> Schwartau says. "I've posed this question of Tempest interception to
> lawyers and judges. The operational phrase came out of some of the
> cellular interception, the mobile home phone interception: Those are
> intentional broadcasts, and interception of those is clearly
> illegal." Schwartau says that legal colleagues agree with Jones'
> assertion that intercepting unintentional, surreptitious emanations
> from electronic equipment is not illegal. "However, there have been
> other lawyers who've maintained--and these operate on the government
> side--that "we'd find a way to get you."
> In the end, no matter how brilliant an argument lawyers can make
> that such transmissions "don't count," there's only one
> interpretation that really matters: namely, the definition decided
> on by the government. "That is the end-all and be-all," says Mike of
> Discreet Electronics and Security, Inc. "If the government says it's
> illegal, then guess what? It's illegal."
> So although the consensus may be that current law leaves a
> convenient loophole that technically permits Tempest monitoring, the
> prudent person shouldn't risk it. "I can modify a black-and-white
> television set, with seven cents in parts, to make it work. Does
> that make my TV illegal? No, of course not," says Schwartau. "The
> equipment that the government uses to monitor and test this type of
> equipment is open sale equipment. There are no clearances required.
> Schwartau believes that even while providers' motivations in selling
> Tempest scanning equipment may be questionable, it's clearly legal
> for them to sell the stuff. Using it is another question. "lt's
> shaky ground if I'm going to go out and intercept the signals
> surreptitiously, but you also have to ask the question: How can you
> prosecute something that is passive and invisible?"
> That's a good point and a chief concern for privacy advocates. This
> monitoring is so non-invasive that most people will never even have
> a clue that they were spied on. Many fear that the government will
> abuse their privileged position as the keepers of Tempest standards
> and that the situation could turn into an unconstitutional,
> one-sided information war. As a consequence, there is a grass-roots
> movement of people learning to protect themselves. In his article
> "Tempest in a Teapot" at http:t/www.quadralay.com/
> www/Crypt/Tempest/ tempest.html, Grady Ward notes that concerned
> computer users can take a number of simple steps to reduce
> compromising emanations.
> Ward suggests keeping cables between components as short as
> possible, to reduce the length of cable that acts as an antenna and
> to use only shielded cable which is wrapped with metal to keep
> emissions within the sheath. He recommends that users make sure that
> all computers and peripherals that they use meet the Federal
> Communications Commission's Class B standard which permits only one
> tenth the power of spurious emissions than the Class A standard.
> Ward also instructs users to keep the cover on their computer, to
> mount telephone-line filter products at the jack of the modem and to
> snap metallic ferrite beads over all cables so that offending
> electromagnetic emissions are used up in a heat sink instead of
> being released into the air.
> Those who feel the need to protect truly valuable information can
> take further steps by altering the rooms in which they work.
> "You don't need the proverbial lead-lined room anymore," Jones says.
> "There are composite non wovens that are similar to wallpaper that
> you can do a room in: the walls, the ceiling, the floors. Paste the
> stuff on the walls and then put paneling or regular wallpaper over
> it, and it pretty much makes the room secure. It blocks the
> electromagnetic emissions from going out. There also is translucent
> shielding similar to the sun tinting in an automobile that you put
> on the windows."
> Schwartau offers an alternative, saying, "The least expensive and
> easiest way to do it is electromagnetic moire' pattern masking.
> That' a technique using an inline box that plugs between the monitor
> and the video card on your PC. It creates an electromagnetic moire
> pattern that for all intents and purposes would keep out everybody
> but the absolutely most dedicated national resources."
> What's more, the active-matrix screens now built into laptops
> operate with out electron guns and their emissions are much lower.
> When such screens are commonly used as desktop monitors the
> possibility for being spied on will be lessened.
> Active matrix ? Electromagnetic moire? Isn't all this a little
> extreme ? Maybe not. Privacy advocates note that Tempest monitoring
> is just one facet of an information war in which the government has
> an unfair upper hand. We probably don't need to remind you, but the
> U.S. government has not always demonstrated the best judgment when
> it comes to emerging technologies, individual rights or covert
> actions involving "dangerous"citizens.
> The hope is that public indignation about Tempest monitoring will
> cause a true tempest, a whirlwind of anger and official
> accountability. Only then will we have the same tools and
> information as the Feds, bringing the battle onto an even playing
> field.
> Perhaps strife, outcry and controversy during this period of rapidly
> emerging technology would not be such a bad thing. Consider these
> words from Shakespeare's Orthello: "If after every tempest come such
> calms, may the winds blow till they have waken'd death!"
> You may view Jones' paper " Nowhere to Run...Nowhere to Hide...The
> vulnerability of CRT's, CPU's and peripherals to TEMPEST monitoring
> in the Real World" at:http://www.thecodex.com/c_tempest.html
> You may view Jones' DataScan TEMPEST monitoring device
> at:http://www.thecodex.com/datascan.html

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