Electronic signals scream out to be heard because of physics • The Register
Opinion Forget the Singularity. This modern myth, in which AI learns to perfect itself in exponential feedback to the evil deity, will not happen. Space-time itself places strict limits on how quickly information can be collected and processed, no matter how smart you are.
What we should expect in its place is the panopticon robot, a relatively dull system with almost divine power of perception. These are the same laws of physics that prevent Godbot from actually guaranteeing. The last harbinger of the fate of mankind? Ethernet cable.
In itself, the story of a researcher who took and decoded wireless Ethernet cable emissions is slightly interesting. This was the most unstable of laboratory demonstrations, with all possible tweaks applied to maximize the chances of it working. It’s not even like a new discovery. The effect and its security implications have been known since World War II, when Bell Labs demonstrated to the US military that a telecontrol encoder called SIGTOT was vulnerable. It can also monitor remotely and unencrypted messages extracted from the radio pulses it emits during operation.
The same goes for anything that uses electricity to transmit data, leading to ghostly / anti-ghostly efforts such as TEMPEST to use or minimize the problem. What he can never do is solve it. Physics, man. This is how the electromagnetic or EM quantum field works, one of the five main forces of space (the other four are gravity, strong atomic, weak atomic, and stupidity, as you ask). Successfully turn it off with a driver pack.
The EM field does its magic with a strange trick. If you change the speed of an electron, which all electronics do all the time, it emits electromagnetic waves. I can not help. You can encode the signal, you can minimize it, you can try to protect it, but it is there and can be picked up if you try hard enough. Each piece of wire can be an antenna. This is the simplest machine in the world and will radiate if tickled.
Ethernet has many electrons rushing through long wires, and thus has many design features to minimize its radiation. The cables use twisted pairs of wires, which to some extent eliminate wireless leaks. You can buy a special shielded cable, which is even better – but expensive and must be properly installed and maintained. You don’t do that. And the faster Ethernet becomes, the more efficiently even short cables connect their noise in the ether. I doubt? Take an analog radio, tune to a dead center on the dial, and place it near a loaded piece of gigabit string.
So if every Ethernet system hisses secrets in the void, who listens? Excluding your real spies, it looks like no one. Exactly the opposite. Every part of the wireless kit on the planet tries not to listen, because most of the time your packets are just interference. These days, this filtering process is often a software feature and increasingly knows a lot about the interference it tries to dismiss — and listens to it quite carefully to eliminate it, just like the microphones in noise-canceling headphones.
Guess what? Our new friend AI / ML tucked his snout. Yes, it will eventually use the data it is trying to invalidate to build models. And yes, it’s the same as listening to it very hard. Will this data, collected invisibly by automated agents and potentially containing useful behavioral signals, be protected from exploitation? You can answer this yourself.
This is just one example. You only have to go back a few weeks to find another one, announcing a system where optical cables are used for sound capture supposed to sense when they will be dug up by mistake. This time the basic physics is that when you send light through an environment, it is influenced by the physical attributes of that environment, which change when they are compressed, say, by sound. Can not be. Maybe not. It is. Do the correct analysis of the pattern on this issue and you can tell a lot about where and what the sound is. Instead of leaking information, the fiber becomes an extremely long microphone. It has always been so, but now we have the right magic to use it as such.
Do the walls have ears? If you bounce Wi-Fi signals from them and look for small changes caused by sound waves, yes. If Cat 6 goes through them, they also have a mouth.
That’s right, friends. Everything is connected, everything affects everything else. We live in a universe that loves to store, distribute and transform information and we are becoming very good at using it in new, exciting and disturbing ways, always with pattern recognition and increasingly amplified by AI / ML. Which is not very good at thinking, but it is extremely good at sifting information from noise.
We will still have to think if we want our new eavesdropping planet to be a pleasant place to live. ®