Hard Drive Side-Channel Attacks Using Smartphone Magnetic Field Sensors

  • Sebastian BiedermannEmail author
  • Stefan Katzenbeisser
  • Jakub Szefer
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8975)


In this paper we present a new class of side-channel attacks on computer hard drives. Hard drives contain one or more spinning disks made of a magnetic material. In addition, they contain different magnets which rapidly move the head to a target position on the disk to perform a write or a read. The magnetic fields from the disk’s material and head are weak and well shielded. However, we show that the magnetic field due to the moving head can be picked up by sensors outside of the hard drive. With these measurements, we are able to deduce patterns about ongoing operations. For example, we can detect what type of the operating system is booting up or what application is being started. Most importantly, no special equipment is necessary. All attacks can be performed by using an unmodified smartphone placed in proximity of a hard drive.


Magnetic Field Strength Smart Card Disk Drive Hard Drive Magnetic Field Measurement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Agrawal, D., Archambeault, B., Rao, J., Rohatgi, P.: The em side channel(s). In: Kaliski, B.S., Koç, K., Paar, C. (eds.) CHES 2002. LNCS, vol. 2523, pp. 29–45. Springer, Heidelberg (2003)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Gandolfi, K., Mourtel, C., Olivier, F.: Electromagnetic analysis: concrete results. In: Koç, Ç.K., Naccache, D., Paar, C. (eds.) CHES 2001. LNCS, vol. 2162, pp. 251–261. Springer, Heidelberg (2001) Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gold, B.D., Linde, R., Cudney, P.F.: Kvm/37o in retrospect. In: IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, pp. 13–23 (1984)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Karger, P.A., Wray, J.C.: Storage channels in disk arm optimization. In: IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, pp. 52–63 (1991)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Mateos, E., Gebotys, C.: Side channel analysis using giant magneto-resistive (gmr) sensors. In: COSADE workshop Proceedings Published by CASED (2011)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Quisquater, J.-J., Samyde, D.: Electromagnetic analysis (EMA): measures and counter-measures for smart cards. In: Attali, S., Jensen, T. (eds.) E-smart 2001. LNCS, vol. 2140, pp. 200–210. Springer, Heidelberg (2001) Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Rao, N.: Fundamentals of Electromagnetics for Electrical and Computer Engineering. Pearson Education, New Delhi (2011) Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Biedermann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefan Katzenbeisser
    • 1
  • Jakub Szefer
    • 2
  1. 1.Security Engineering GroupDarmstadtGermany
  2. 2.Computer Architecture and Security LaboratoryYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

Personalised recommendations