Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Security risk: Sensitive data can be harvested from a PC even if it is in standby mode, experts say

Date:
August 10, 2012
Source:
Inderscience
Summary:
When you switch off your computer any passwords you used to login to web pages, your bank or other financial account evaporate into the digital ether, right? Not so fast! Researchers in Greece have discovered a security loophole that exploits the way computer memory works and could be used to harvest passwords and other sensitive data from a PC even if it is in standby mode.

When you switch off your computer any passwords you used to login to web pages, your bank or other financial account evaporate into the digital ether, right? Not so fast! Researchers in Greece have discovered a security loophole that exploits the way computer memory works and could be used to harvest passwords and other sensitive data from a PC even if it is in standby mode.

Writing in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Christos Georgiadis of the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki and colleagues Stavroula Karayianni and Vasilios Katos at the Democritus University of Thrace in Xanthi explain how their discovery could be used by information specialists in forensic science for retrieving incriminating evidence from computers as well as exploited by criminals to obtain personal data and bank details.

The researchers point out that most computer users assume that switching off their machine removes any data held in random access memory (RAM), this type of fast memory is used by the computer to temporarily hold data currently used by a given application. RAM is often referred to as volatile memory, because anything contained in RAM is considered lost when a computer is switched off. Indeed, all data is lost from RAM when the power supply is disconnected; so it is volatile in this context.

However, Georgiadis and colleagues have now shown that data held in RAM is not lost if the computer is switched off but the mains electricity supply not interrupted. They suggest that forensics experts and criminals might thus be able to access data from the most recently used applications. They point out that starting a new memory-intensive application will overwrite data in RAM while a computer is being used, but simply powering off the machine leaves users vulnerable in terms of security and privacy.

"The need to capture and analyse the RAM contents of a suspect PC grows constantly as remote and distributed applications have become popular, and RAM is an important source of evidence," the team explains, as it can contain telltale traces of networks accessed and the unencrypted forms of passwords sent to login boxes and online forms.

The team tested their approach to retrieving data from RAM after a computer had been switched off following a general and common usage scenario involving accessing Facebook, Gmail, Microsoft Network (MSN) and Skype. They carried out RAM dumps immediately after switch off at 5, 15 and 60 minutes. They then used well-known forensic repair tools to piece together the various fragments of data retrieved from the memory dumps.

The team was able to reconstruct login details from the memory dumps for several popular services being used in the Firefox web browser including Google Mail (GMail), Facebook, Hotmail, and the WinRar file compression application. "We can conclude that volatile memory loses data under certain conditions and in a forensic investigation such memory can be a valuable source of evidence," the team says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Inderscience. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christos Georgiadis, Stavroula Karayianni and Vasilios Katos. A framework for password harvesting from volatile memory. International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, 2012

Cite This Page:

Inderscience. "Security risk: Sensitive data can be harvested from a PC even if it is in standby mode, experts say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120810083611.htm>.
Inderscience. (2012, August 10). Security risk: Sensitive data can be harvested from a PC even if it is in standby mode, experts say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120810083611.htm
Inderscience. "Security risk: Sensitive data can be harvested from a PC even if it is in standby mode, experts say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120810083611.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) — Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — Google is changing its search-engine results to protect content producers from piracy — for a price. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — Microsoft will reportedly release a smartwatch that works across different mobile platforms, has a two-day battery life and tracks heart rate. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — Spotify Family lets you add a family member to your account for half price. Although users are excited, it's a move competitors have already made. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins