Life has become far easier since the dawn of WiFi. Since saying goodbye to physical wired connections, convenience and ease of use when it comes to internet connectivity are now parts of the basic expectations we all have.
However, there’s another side of the coin. WiFi connections also make it easier for hackers to access our sensitive data. When making use of public WiFi networks, we all know that we need to be extra vigilant about our privacy against hackers.
Public WiFi networks are shockingly easy to hack. Man-in-the-middle attacks (where someone positions themselves in between a user and a web application to eavesdrop on the exchange of data) and WiFi snooping are both ways that hackers can distribute malware or access your data.
As such, we need to be extra careful about what we do on public networks and how we do it. But, if you’re thinking that only public networks are vulnerable, think again. All WiFi connections are vulnerable to hacking. In addition, air-gapped devices are at risk now from AIR-FI.
So, let’s talk about AIR-FI – an advanced style of hacking that has recently become a cause for concern.
What Exactly Is AIR-FI?
AIR-FI is a new way for hackers to obtain data from computers. Air-gapped computers to be more precise. These are devices that don’t have any WiFi hardware on their systems.
These computers have no network interfaces (either wired or wireless) that connect them to outside networks. This means it is not connected to the Internet or any device that connects to the Internet. It is physically isolated. So, to transfer data from an air-gapped computer, you’ll need to use a thumb drive or another physical medium.
But how do hackers access data on air-gapped devices then? Essentially, AIR-FI utilizes electromagnetic emissions in the 2.4 GHz WiFi band. They use these emissions to transfer malware onto the target machine, thereby infecting the device.
How Does It Work?
All electronic components, like computers, create electromagnetic waves as electrical currents run through them. WiFi signals are radio waves on a 2.4GHz spectrum. These radio waves are very similar to the electromagnetic waves that devices produce.
Hackers will manipulate the electrical currents on air-gapped devices to create electromagnetic radiation at the same frequency of WiFi radio waves.
Any device with a WiFi antenna close to the air-gapped device can then identify the signal. This presents the opportunity for the hacker to access data, install malware, and compromise the computer system.
Who Does This Affect?
Air-gapped systems are more commonly used than one might think. While we have become accustomed to the ease of WiFi connectivity in our own homes and offices, there are in fact a number of large organizations that use air-gapped systems.
These include government organizations, the military, and even some high-level corporations. They will use air-gapped systems when dealing with highly sensitive data. For example, they would store classified files and valuable intellectual property on air-gapped computers for better privacy and security.
How To Prevent AIR-FI Attacks
A research paper by Mordechai Guri proposes some helpful ways to fend off these types of attacks. He suggests using a proactive approach to keep your systems and data safe from attacks.
One of these methods is to utilize signal jamming. This prevents the transmission of any and all WiFi signals in close proximity to the air-gapped machine.
You can also make use of Faraday shielding. This is a type of container that either blocks or limits electromagnetic fields from interacting with the air-gapped machine completely.
More methods include prohibiting WiFi-capable devices around the air-gapped machine or implementing runtime detection. Runtime detection involves monitoring processes and reporting and inspecting any abnormal transfers on the device.
Final Thoughts On AIR-FI
Any environment with sensitive enough data to warrant an air-gapped system should keep an eye on this development moving forward. Luckily, AIR-FI isn’t the type of hacking technique that most people need to protect themselves against. But, we all still need to be extra vigilant about the other ways in which our personal or sensitive data can be accessed by hackers.