Researchers at the universities of Michigan and Zhejiang have discovered that sound waves can disrupt the operation of hard disk drives to the point, in some cases, of causing computers equipped with them to crash altogether. To achieve this, however, it is necessary to emit very specific frequencies and longer or shorter depending on the models.
Thus, using a 7.83 kHz wave broadcast directly on the integrated speakers of a Dell XPS 15 9550, it took just 45 seconds for the research teams to put the installed version of Windows 10 out of service. on the device's HDD. Frequencies between 10 kHz and 40 kHz and less than two minutes will have been necessary to crash two other models: an HP Elite Minitower and a laptop PC from Sony.
If the experience cannot be reproduced on SSDs (since the sound interferes with the read head of HDDs and SSDs do not have it), the latter still raises serious questions about the security of machines that still work with it. or with conventional hard drives. For obvious storage reasons, this is particularly the case with video surveillance devices.
The read heads of our hard drives: sensitive little animals
The bulk of this experience goes directly to HDD read heads. Their real Achilles heel. To function properly, a hard drive must be able to rely on its read head which will read or write data on the platters. If a sufficient sound frequency is emitted to cause the read head to move (even if only minutely) while it is in full operation, the latter will stop operating normally.
This is when the drivers (software tools responsible for relaying between the components and the operating system) will start sending error messages in packets to Windows. It will therefore be necessary to restart the system or face the famous blue screen visible below, which does not generally bode well for his machine.
To fight against possible attacks using sound frequencies aimed at freezing hard drives, the researchers recommend the integration of software capable of detecting anomalies – and in particular abnormal mechanical or acoustic vibrations. A very meager solution which remains the only one currently offered …