How an ancient printer can spill your most intimate secrets

Dan Goodin reports:

Researchers have devised a novel way to recover confidential messages processed in doctors’ offices and elsewhere by analyzing the sounds made when documents are reproduced on dot-matrix printers.

This so-called side-channel attack works by recording the “acoustic emanations” of a confidential document being printed, and then processing it with software that translates the sounds into words. The method recovers as much as 95 per cent of the printed words when an attacker has contextual knowledge about the text being printed, such as the words included in a medical prescription or a living-will declaration. Up to 72 per cent of the text can be recovered when no context is known.

Read more in The Register.

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