CBG in the News

Desktop Scanners Can Be Hijacked to Perpetrate Cyberattacks, According to BGU and Weizmann Institute Researchers

A typical office scanner can be infiltrated and a company’s network compromised using different light sources, according to a n...

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BGU Researchers Have Developed a Platform to Protect Users from Cyber-Attacks Launched Through Videos or Pictures

As WikiLeaks allegedly revealed thousands of pages about US Intelligence agencies’ cyber-espionage capabilities, and as hackers ...

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Cameras can Steal Data from Computer Hard Drive LED Lights

Researchers at BGU’s Cyber Security Research Center have demonstrated that data can be stolen from an isolated “air-...

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Global entities come shopping for Israeli cybersecurity

At Tel Aviv confab, prime minister announces new National Center for Cyber Education to keep Israel’s young generations at t...

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NTU Singapore and Ben-Gurion University Ink Partnership to Combat Advanced Cyber Threats

Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) are collaborating to find innovativ...

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First of its kind Cyber Cooperation Agreement signed between BGU and NTU

During the Cybertech Singapore conference, the Israeli Ben-Gurion University and the Singaporean Nanyang Technological Universit...

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Cyber Labs in the News

Recent news coverage: Samsung Phone Studied for Possible Security Gap / WSJIsraeli Researchers Point to Alleged Vulnerability in Galaxy S4 Samsung: Knox Security Gap Not Specific to Galaxy Devices / WSJ Digits Android VPN flaw found, exposes protected data / ZDNet Israeli Android researchers demo VPN vulnerability / The Register Android flaw allows attackers to bypass VPN, capture unencrypted data / SC Magazine Cyber Security Labs Team – Follow us via @cyberlabsbgu...

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A typical office scanner can be infiltrated and a company’s network compromised using different light sources, according to a new paper by researchers from BGU and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

“In this research, we demonstrated how to use a laser or smart bulb to establish a covert channel between an outside attacker and malware installed on a networked computer,” says Ben Nassi, a graduate student in BGU’s Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering as well as a researcher at BGU’s Cyber Security Research Center (CSRC).  “A scanner with the lid left open is sensitive to changes in the surrounding light and might be used as a back door into a company’s network.”

The researchers conducted several demonstrations to transmit a message into computers connected to a flatbed scanner. Using direct laser light sources up to a half-mile (900 meters) away, as well as on a drone outside their office building, the researchers successfully sent a message to trigger malware through the scanner.


In another demonstration, the researchers used a Galaxy 4 Smartphone to hijack a smart lightbulb (using radio signals) in the same room as the scanner. Using a program they wrote, they manipulated the smart bulb to emit pulsating light that delivered the triggering message in only seconds.

To mitigate this vulnerability, the researchers recommend organizations connect a scanner to the network through a proxy server — a computer that acts as an intermediary — which would prevent establishing a covert channel. This might be considered an extreme solution, however, since it also limits printing and faxing remotely on all-in-one devices.

“We believe this study will increase the awareness to this threat and result in secured protocols for scanning that will prevent an attacker from establishing such a covert channel through an external light source, smart bulb, TV, or other IoT (Internet of Things) device,” Nassi says.

Prof. Adi Shamir of the Department of Applied Mathematics at the Weizmann Institute conceived of the project to identify new network vulnerabilities by establishing a clandestine channel in a computer network.

Ben Nassi’s Ph.D. research advisor is Prof. Yuval Elovici​, a member of the BGU Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering and director of the Deutsche Telekom Innovation ​Laboratories at BGU. Elovici is also director of the CSRC.​​

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As WikiLeaks allegedly revealed thousands of pages about US Intelligence agencies’ cyber-espionage capabilities, and as hackers continue to broaden their avenues of attack, one of the vulnerabilities revealed was smart TVs. However, Prof. Ofer Hadar (pictured left), Chair of BGU’s Department of Communication Systems Engineering warns that the threat is actually much greater.

“Any video or picture downloaded or streamed by a user is a potential vehicle for a cyber-attack. What’s more, hackers like videos and pictures because they bypass the regular data transfer systems of even secure systems and there is a lot of space to implant malicious code,” says Hadar.


He has dubbed it The Coucou Project and received significant funding from the Cyber Security Research Center at BGU, a joint initiative of BGU and the Israeli National Cyber Bureau, to develop his protective solution. In addition, the BaseCamp Innovation Center at the Advanced Technologies Park adjacent to BGU is interested in developing the platform into a commercial company.

Hadar’s Coucou Project assumes two potential attack scenarios, both of which assume that basic malware has been planted on the victim’s servers/hosts by means of social engineering or other types of vulnerability exploitation; from there, the malware gathers classified information from the victim’s data center.  In the first case, once the user uploads an image or a video to a social network, the malware embeds the classified information into the uploaded content (making it accessible to the attacker), and then the attacker can download the infected content and extract the classified information.  In the second scenario, the attacker uploads infected content to a social network or any other server and the malware extracts the shell code and executes it.

“When considering future applications of the Coucou product, we envision covert channel and protection applications and anticipate that the technique will be used by Firewall and antivirus companies,” adds Hadar.

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Researchers at BGU’s Cyber Security Research Center have demonstrated that data can be stolen from an isolated “air-gapped” computer’s hard drive reading the pulses of light on the LED drive using various types of cameras and light sensors.

In the new paper, the researchers demonstrated how data can be received by a Quadcopter drone flight, even outside a window with line-of-sight of the transmitting computer. Click here to watch a video of the demonstration.

Air-gapped computers are isolated — separated both logically and physically from public networks — ostensibly so that they cannot be hacked over the Internet or within company networks. These computers typically contain an organization’s most sensitive and confidential information.

Led by Dr. Mordechai Guri (pictured above), Head of R&D at the Cyber Security Research Center, the research team utilized the hard-drive (HDD) activity LED lights that are found on most desktop PCs and laptops. The researchers found that once malware is on a computer, it can indirectly control the HDD LED, turning it on and off rapidly (thousands of flickers per second) — a rate that exceeds the human visual perception capabilities. As a result, highly sensitive information can be encoded and leaked over the fast LED signals, which are received and recorded by remote cameras or light sensors.

“Our method compared to other LED exfiltration is unique, because it is also covert,” Dr. Guri says. “The hard drive LED flickers frequently, and therefore the user won’t be suspicious about changes in its activity.”

Dr. Guri and the Cyber Security Research Center have conducted a number of studies to demonstrate how malware can infiltrate air-gapped computers and transmit data. Previously, they determined that computer speakers and fans, FM waves and heat are all methods that can be used to obtain data.

In addition to Dr. Guri, the other BGU researchers include Boris Zadov, who received his M.Sc. degree from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Prof. Yuval Elovici, director of the Cyber Security Research Center. Prof. Elovici is also a member of the University’s Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering and Director of Deutsche Telekom Laboratories at BGU.

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At Tel Aviv confab, prime minister announces new National Center for Cyber Education to keep Israel’s young generations at the top of the cyber game.

As computer devices and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity continue to break new boundaries and create changes to our lifestyle, new cybersecurity technologies to defend our tech-savvy lives are crucial.

“Not many years ago, computers were far away. Then they came to our desktops, then to our laptops, and then to our pockets; now they’re in our clothes and, for some, in our body — medical devices. All this needs to be defended,” Erez Kreiner, CEO of Cyber-Rider and former director of Israel’s National Cyber Security Authority, told a press gathering at this week’s Cybertech 2017 conference in Tel Aviv.

He noted that Israel is the place to find many of the best cybersecurity products.

Last year saw 65 startups created in Israel’s cyber space, according to Start-Up Nation Central, a nonprofit organization. Altogether, the country boasts about 450 companies specializing in cyber, according to a Reuters report.

Israel’s venture-capital funding in the cyber sector, according to Start-Up Nation Central, is a record $581 million, second only to the United States.

YL Ventures’ report showing the hottest types of cybersecurity solutions to attract investment in 2016 included mobile security, vulnerability and risk management, network security, SCADA security and incident response.

“We’re still at the beginning for the cyber arena. We still need the security solution for smart homes, we still don’t have security solutions for autonomous cars, or for connected medical devices or MRI machines, or for connected kitchen appliances. Every technology that will be introduced to our lives in the coming years will need a cyber solution,” says Kreiner.

Indeed, our digital society makes us vulnerable to external threats of cyber terror, cybercrime and identity theft.

Control systems, online banking, networks, databases and electronic devices are all susceptible to attack.

“In the cyber arena, I’d say we’re in the September 10th zone,” says Kreiner. “We know very bad things can happen. So we invest in cybersecurity but still we’re very much on the edge.”

In search of Israeli innovation

Cybertech 2017, held for its fourth year at the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center, attracted over 10,000 visitors, investors, entrepreneurs and cyber companies. Cybertech is the second largest conference and exhibition of cyber technologies in the world.

Visitors come seeking the latest in cybersecurity. After all, Israelis came up with the concept of firewall security before hackers even started attacking personal computers.

Gil Shwed, founder and CEO of Check Point Software Technologies, a pioneer of firewall security, speaking at Cybertech 2017. Photo by Gilad Kavalerchik

“There are a lot of global innovators in cybersecurity. But if I were to put a bet on it, I would bet on Israel,” Esti Peshin, director of Cyber Programs at Israel Aerospace Industries, tells ISRAEL21c about where the best new technologies will come from.

Calls for collaboration echoed around the Trade Fairs hall.

Former Mossad senior officer Haim Tomer says “every country has felt the effects of cyber attacks.”

“What you see today is going to get a lot worse in the future if we don’t band together,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told conference attendees.

“Terrorist organizations use the same tools we use – against us,” said Netanyahu. “The Internet of Things can be used by these terrorist organizations for dangerous purposes. Unless we work together and cooperate, the future can be very menacing. In this context, Israel, the US and other countries should cooperate at the government level as well as among the industries.”

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) of Singapore and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) announced a new collaboration to develop technologies for tackling advanced persistent threats (APTs).

“BGU and NTU recognize the grave necessity of stopping APTs, which are some of the hardest cyber attacks to detect, and have allocated significant funding over two years to develop early detection methods,” said BGU Prof. Dan Blumberg. “Cyber security is a global threat which has become a research topic of increasing interest at BGU and we are pleased to be collaborating with our partners in Singapore to stem the tide.”

Yuval Elovici of Ben-Gurion University’s Cyber Security Research Center speaking with the press at Cybertech 2017. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Yuval Elovici, head of BGU Cyber Security Research Center, told journalists that the research and patented technology developed at the university are used to create new prevention and detection tools.

Elovici gave an example of how smartwatches can be hacked, and when worn into a secure environment, end up compromising the organization.

“The vulnerabilities are great,” says Elovici, noting his research team is now creating a solution to alert organizations to new devices that enter their secure space. “We’re developing mechanisms so that we can continue to live with IoT and still keep safe.”

At the BGU exhibit area, two prominent examples of research-to-startup success include Morphisec, which is now opening a US office, and Double Octopus, which recently announced a $6 million investment round. Both companies developed cyber security prevention and detection tools based on patented technology originating out of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Israel’s vision some 20 years ago to put cyber on top of the agenda was crucial to the country’s place as a world cybersecurity expert today. To further that vision and to keep Israel’s new generation at the top of the cyber game, Netanyahu announced the creation of a National Center for Cyber Education.

The new center will have a $6 million budget over the next five years, to “increase the number and raise the level of young Israelis for their future integration into the Israeli security services, industry and the academic world.”

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Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) are collaborating to find innovative ways to counter cyber threats.

The aim of the joint research project, called the Bio-Inspired Agile Cyber Security Assurance Framework (BICSAF), is to develop innovative technologies for tackling Advanced Persistent Threats. These are stealthy and continuous computer hacking processes run by individuals who target specific entities, such as private organisations and state agencies. Their long periods of covertness make it difficult to detect such threats with current technology.

NTU Chief of Staff and Vice-President of Research Prof Lam Khin Yong and BGU Vice-President and Dean of Research & Development Prof Dan Blumberg signed the joint research agreement at the CyberTech Conference in Tel Aviv yesterday (pictured above – photo Credit: Gilad Kavalerchik). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the conference’s guest-of-honor earlier in the day.

The project will have S$3 million in joint funding from NTU, BGU and the National Research Foundation (NRF), Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore. The collaboration is supported by NRF through its National Cybersecurity R&D Programme.  In collaboration with the Cyber Security Research Centre at NTU, the new initiative will be led on the BGU side by Cyber Security Research Center director Prof. Yuval Elovici, and Dr. Rami Puzis of the Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering. In developing new technologies to counter cyber threats, the two partners are inspired by the ability of the human body’s immune system to adapt to and fight ever-evolving bacteria and viruses.

Prof Lam Khin Yong said, “Through this partnership, NTU and BGU will be able to develop innovative methods for combating one of the most complicated problems in cyber security – Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs). This project will leverage NTU’s strong hardware-based research expertise and BGU’s software-based core competencies to combat this intractable problem.”

NTU has invested heavily in its cyber security expertise in recent years, including a S$2.5 million partnership last year with BAE Systems to jointly develop next-generation cybersecurity solutions.

BGU has deep expertise in cyber security research and is at the heart of efforts to turn Beer-Sheva into a national and international cyber hub. Prof Dan Blumberg said, “BGU and NTU recognise the grave necessity of stopping Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), which are some of the hardest cyber-attacks to detect, and have allocated significant funding over two years to develop early detection methods.  Cyber security is a global threat which has become a research topic of increasing interest at BGU and we are pleased to be collaborating with our partners in Singapore to stem the tide.”

Mr George Loh, Director (Programmes) of NRF and Co-Chair of the National Cybersecurity R&D Programme Committee , said, “Singapore has established a holistic national cybersecurity strategy that will support our Smart Nation vision and enhance Singapore’s standing as a trusted digital hub. It is critical for Singapore to develop strong cybersecurity capabilities to protect our critical infrastructures such as our public transport systems, public safety systems, and energy systems, which are interconnected elements contributing to the quality of life for Singaporeans.

“The collaboration between NTU and BGU will explore novel ideas to develop cyber-immune technologies to fight external adversaries that launch cyber-attacks on our critical systems, much like how our biological immune system works.”

The Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering at BGU is the largest in Israel, with significant resources devoted to cyber security research.  BGU also set up the Cyber Security Research Center with the Israel National Cyber Bureau to identify risks while protecting critical national infrastructure.

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It also has a medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

Ranked 13th in the world, NTU has also been ranked the world’s top young university for the last three years running. The University’s main campus has been named one of the Top 15 Most Beautiful in the World. NTU also has a campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) is a department within the Prime Minister’s Office. The NRF sets the national direction for research, innovation and enterprise (RIE) in Singapore. It seeks to invest in science, technology and engineering, build up the technological capacity of our companies, encourage innovation by industry to exploit new opportunities that drive economic growth, and facilitate public-private partnerships to address national challenges.

Under RIE2020, the NRF is committed to create greater value in Singapore from our investment in research, innovation and enterprise through 1) closer integration of research thrusts, 2) stronger dynamic towards the best teams and ideas, 3) sharper focus on value creation, and 4) better optimised RIE manpower.

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During the Cybertech Singapore conference, the Israeli Ben-Gurion University and the Singaporean Nanyang Technological University signed an extensive cooperation agreement which will focus on cyber issues

The cooperation agreement was signed this week, during the Cybertech Singapore conference, in the presence of the president of Ben-Gurion University, Prof. Rivka Carmi, the heads of NTU, Israeli Minister of Energy Dr. Yuval Steinitz and Israel’s Ambassador to Singapore, Yael Rubinstein.

Israel and Singapore share a wide framework agreement for cooperation in the field of cyberspace, which is the basis for agreements between institutions and organizations from both countries.

Ben-Gurion University is considered a world leader in the field of cyber, and the Singaporean University is inaugurating a new cyber research center.

The agreement signed on Tuesday states that the two universities will carry out joint research projects funded by the two organizations. The projects will be led by Prof. Yuval Elovici of Ben-Gurion University and professor Prof. Thambipillai Srikanthan of NTU.

In addition to the agreement with Ben-Gurion University, NTU also recently signed a cooperation agreement with the Israeli defense company Rafael.

Prof. Lam Khin Yong, Chief of Staff and VP Research at NTU, said in his address at the conference that the university aims to lead the cyber research and create a close relationship between research and industry. Prof. Rivka Carmi presented the unique cyber “ecosystem” in the city of Be’er Sheva, Israel, which includes the academy, the military, and the industry.

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