Acoustic attack on HDD can crash a Windows 10 laptop

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Sound, well if it can break glass why not other stuff?, the story of the day I guess. Time to go for an SSD? A new attack vector has been discovered, called blue note. Security researchers demonstrated an acoustic attack on hard disk drives (HDDs) which will crash the PC and lead to file system corruption. 

On a more serious note, the Researchers from the University of Michigan and Zhejiang University also demonstrated how a security camera was unable to record video with a fairly similar attack. The attack has been named BlueNote. Intentional acoustic interference causes unusual errors in the mechanics of magnetic hard disk drives in desktop and laptop computers, leading to damage to integrity and availability in both hardware and software such as file system corruption and operating system reboots.



An adversary without any special purpose equipment can co-opt built-in speakers or nearby emitters to cause persistent errors. Our work traces the deeper causality of these risks from the physics of materials to the I/O request stack in operating systems for audible and ultrasonic sound. Our experiments show that audible sound causes the head stack assembly to vibrate outside of operational bounds; ultrasonic sound causes false positives in the shock sensor, which is designed to prevent a head crash. The problem poses a challenge for legacy magnetic disks that remain stubbornly common in safety critical applications such as medical devices and other highly utilized systems difficult to sunset. Thus, we created and modeled a new feedback controller that could be deployed as a firmware update to attenuate the intentional acoustic interference. Our sensor fusion method prevents unnecessary head parking by detecting ultrasonic triggering of the shock sensor.

Acoustic attack on HDD can crash a Windows 10 laptop

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