InkFiltration: Using Inkjet Printers for Acoustic Data Exfiltration from Air-Gapped Networks [Journal Paper]

NESL Technical Report #: 2022-4-1


Abstract: Printers have become ubiquitous in modern office spaces, and their placement in these spaces been guided more by accessibility than security. Due to the proximity of printers to places with potentially high-stakes information, the possible misuse of these devices is concerning. We present a previously unexplored covert channel that effectively uses the sound generated by printers with inkjet technology to exfiltrate arbitrary sensitive data (unrelated to the apparent content of the document being printed) from an air-gapped network. We also discuss a series of defense techniques that can make these devices invulnerable to covert manipulation. The proposed covert channel works by malware installed on a computer with access to a printer, injecting certain imperceptible patterns into all documents that applications on the computer send to the printer. These patterns can control the printing process without visibly altering the original content of a document, and generate acoustic signals that a nearby acoustic recording device, such as a smartphone, can capture and decode. To prove and analyze the capabilities of this new covert channel, we carried out tests considering different types of document layouts and distances between the printer and recording device. We achieved a bit error ratio less than 5% and an average bit rate of approximately 0.5 bps across all tested printers at distances up to 4 m, which is sufficient to extract tiny bits of information.

External paper URL

Publication Forum: ACM Transactions on Privacy and Security

Date: 2022-05-04

Public Document?: Yes

NESL Document?: Yes

Document category: Journal Paper

Primary Research Area: Privacy, Security, and Integrity