Pita Bread Munchers Could Steal Bitcoins from Public Laptops


    Your days of placing PGP encrypted drug orders in public, and paying for those Darknet purchases in Bitcoin, might be numbered. Don’t look now, but there’s a hacker behind you sinking his jaws into a new crypto-robbing pita bread – and he wants your Bitcoin wallet for dessert.

    Researchers at Tel Aviv University and Israel’s Technion research institute have developed a palm-sized device that can wirelessly steal data from nearby laptops using the radio waves leaked by the machine’s processor.

    Team member Evan Tromer says his group is working to extend the device’s capabilities to include stealing bitcoin keys.

    Tromer says the group is also exploring whether the technique could be adapted and made more widely applicable, too, even allowing the theft of bitcoins by stealing the private keys created by users’ “wallet” programs.

    The setup, which they’ve called the Portable Instrument for Trace Acquisition (PITA), fits inside an ordinary pita bread. While that may not make for the most common attack scenario, it is compact, works with both white and wheat, and operates untethered. This make for a lethal weapon that can be easily hidden, especially inside sandwich shops.

    green bugTheir crusty spy bug, built for less than $300, is designed to allow anyone to “listen” to the accidental radio emanations of a computer’s electronics from 19 inches away and capture the user’s secret decryption keys, enabling attackers to read the user’s encrypted communications.

    The researchers have perfected a method for stealing keys from laptops running open source GnuPG within seconds. Their next experiments will involve perfecting a wireless Bitcoin wallet attack.

    Is it still safe to use the bitcoin in public places? Should pita munchers be looked at under an umbrella of suspicion? Log in below using your favorite social network and weigh in on the discussion.

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