Ctrl-alt-led: Leaking data from air-gapped computers via keyboard leds

Mordechai Guri, Boris Zadov, Dima Bykhovsky, Yuval Elovici

2019 IEEE 43rd Annual Computer Software and Applications Conference (COMPSAC …, 2019

Using the keyboard LEDs to send data optically was proposed in 2002 by Loughry and Umphress [1] (Appendix A). In this paper we extensively explore this threat in the context of a modern cyber-attack with current hardware and optical equipment. In this type of attack, an advanced persistent threat (APT) uses the keyboard LEDs (Caps-Lock, Num-Lock and Scroll-Lock) to encode information and exfiltrate data from airgapped computers optically. Notably, this exfiltration channel is not monitored by existing data leakage prevention (DLP) systems. We examine this attack and its boundaries for today’s keyboards with USB controllers and sensitive optical sensors. We also introduce smartphone and smartwatch cameras as components of malicious insider and ‘evil maid’ attacks. We provide the necessary scientific background on optical communication and the characteristics of modern USB keyboards at the hardware …