Security theatre

I see that a team of Swiss security researchers have discovered something that physicists have known for more than a century: that electromagnetic waves travel through the air. They suggest that computer criminals could soon be eavesdropping on the keystrokes of PC users by analysing the electromagnetic signal produced by each key press.

This phenomenon was extensively promoted by “Tempest” equipment manufacturers in the 1970s and 1980s to sell millions of dollars of unnecessary screening protection to naïve government departments. Yes, you can mount this type of attack if you want to eavesdrop on the chap at the next desk. But you’d look highly suspicious. And there are generally far more effective ways available, such as following him and listening to his conversations or looking through the papers on his desk.

It’s not that difficult to spy on people within 20 metres if you really want to. And that’s probably why I’ve never come across a single recorded incident of a Tempest attack in the UK over the last thirty years. 

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