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GCN : May 2015
GCN MAY 2015 • GCN.COM 9 For many years, common wisdom held that air-gapped systems provided the most secure platform for classified gov- ernment and financial systems because they are physically isolated from other machines, networks and the Internet. They are only compromised if one is able to gain physical access to the machines. Or so we thought. According to Wired, a group of researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University have demonstrated a way to gain access to such systems. Using heat emissions and the thermal sensors built into computers, the research- ers were able to siphon data from an air-gapped system. The technique could also lift passwords from air- gapped machines or transmit malicious commands from Internet-connected devices to the machines. Nicknamed BitWhisper, the attack communicates with the internal system via heat signatures caused by certain commands and translates them into binary code, Wired’s Kim Zetter wrote. Last year, researchers at Ben-Gurion University demonstrated AirHopper, a method for leaking data from an isolated computer to a mobile phone without using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Instead, the app taps radio frequencies to transcribe keystroke data from the computer screen to a phone’s FM radio receiver. Separately, another group of re- searchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology showed how air-gapped systems can be compromised using keystrokes that capture side-channel signals from computers connected to secure, isolated networks, according to a report on TechRepublic. However, researchers admit that it is difficult to distinguish useful information from the electromagnetic radiation. • Researchers find weakness in air-gapped systems BY MARK POMERLEAU editor’s note When tracking public-sector IT, I ’m often struck less by the cutting-edge innovations than by the common threads that can span decades. Yes, of course the cloud — and tech’s steady shift toward software-defined everything — represents real change. Mobile truly is transformative, and today ’s cybersecurity threats are orders of magnitude greater than what governments dealt with just a few years ago. Yet when one looks at the fundamental challenges facing most agencies — balancing mission-specific needs against standardized systems, bolting new technologies onto legacy infrastructure, finding the tools to manage it all — the lessons and stories from long ago often still resonate. That’s one of the great things about a publication like GCN. With more than 30 years of coverage, the GCN archives are a reminder of both the innovative and timeless aspects of government IT. And today ’s writers, editors and (often longtime) readers represent a remarkable brain trust that can be built only with years of labor in the government tech trenches. As GCN continues to evolve, that rich history remains central to the publication — to our ability to separate fads from fundamental shifts and to put the newest technology in the proper perspective. And GCN is indeed evolving. You’ll notice some changes beginning in the pages of this issue, some new bylines complementing the familiar names and some important additions to the masthead on Page 4. Look for more of the same, both in print and on GCN. com, in the weeks and months to come. You’ll also notice that Paul McCloskey, GCN’s longtime leader, has stepped into a new role. He is now focusing his talents on writing features for GCN, with a particular emphasis on the technology that makes truly citizen-centric government possible. Look for the first of those stories in next month’s issue. Evolution, of course, is a continuous thing — and one that involves the reader as well. So although we have some definite ideas about GCN for 2015 and beyond, we want to hear yours, too! What topics matter most? What do you wish GCN covered differently? Are there stories you’d rather we hadn’t covered at all? Please go to is.gd/GCN_survey and share your take on GCN. It’s going to be a fun few months, and your input can only make it better. — Troy K. Schneider email@example.com @troyschneider The more things change... 0515gcn_006-012.indd 9 4/30/15 11:01 AM