Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you!

In today’s connected world, digital information and the technology driving it has become a large part of our everyday lives. However, as digital technologies become more pervasive, the risk of sharing digital information ‘unwittingly’ with those who pose a threat has also increased.

It’s now become standard practice to ensure that sensitive data is kept safe and some organisations (government and military in particular) will even go to the extent of encrypting data when it is
transmitted or shared. Encrypted data is commonly referred to as ‘ciphertext’, while unencrypted data is called ‘plaintext’.

Sounds secure doesn’t it? Well sadly you’d be mistaken. All electrical and electronic equipment produces electromagnetic radiation (electrical emanations). The electromagnetic signals propagate through space (radiated emissions) and along electrically conductive pathways (conducted emissions).

If these emissions are intercepted and analysed, they can reveal that the signals contain information rather than merely ‘noise’ and secure data could be revealed. A receiving device can intercept these signals without being detected, even when located some distance away meaning that ‘physical’ access to the original source equipment is not required. This is referred to as a ‘side-channel’ or ‘TEMPEST’ attack.

In today’s cyber society, modern warfare (and some criminal activity) is frequently conducted in the digital arena, going on largely un-noticed by us. As terrorist and other unfavourable organisations use increasingly more sophisticated methods to access sensitive information, a belt and braces approach to data security is needed. Hence ‘TEMPEST’ enclosures are now being more widely used.

What is a ‘TEMPEST’ enclosure?
It’s a common belief that ‘TEMPEST’ is an acronym for Transient Electromagnetic Pulse Surveillance Technology which, refers to the equipment and devices that emit or receive and decipher data from electromagnetic resonance. However, and contrary to this belief ‘TEMPEST’ is not an acronym – it’s actually a code name for the SDIP standard used by the National Security Association and NATO (SDIP = SECAN Doctrine and Information Publication).

A ‘TEMPEST’ enclosure is designed in accordance to its guidelines and uses a number of different shielding and separation techniques to prevent equipment from emanating electromagnetic radiation (EMR) that may carry classified information. ‘TEMPEST’ is concerned with only the emitted radiation (both radiated and conducted) and whether the signal is ‘information bearing’.

The design process follows a red/black separation principle, whereby the ‘red’ equipment carrying confidential data, must be isolated from the ‘black’ equipment, for example radios and modems, which may capture signals through various filters.

‘TEMPEST’ shielding is the ideal solution for ensuring optimum security for critical systems involved in intelligence and security activity. Here at BOSTON DESIGN we have extensive knowledge of these design principles and can work with your own system engineers to develop highly optimised electronic enclosures with the correct level of shielding to meet the most stringent of cyber security levels.

If you would like to find out more, or have a specific requirement please do not hesitate to contact us for
a consultation.

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