Acoustic Cryptanalysis

Daniel Genkin, Adi Shamir, Eran Tromer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many computers emit a high-pitched noise during operation, due to vibration in some of their electronic components. These acoustic emanations are more than a nuisance: They can convey information about the software running on the computer and, in particular, leak sensitive information about security-related computations. In a preliminary presentation (Eurocrypt’04 rump session), we have shown that different RSA keys induce different sound patterns, but it was not clear how to extract individual key bits. The main problem was the very low bandwidth of the acoustic side channel (under 20 kHz using common microphones, and a few hundred kHz using ultrasound microphones), and several orders of magnitude below the GHz-scale clock rates of the attacked computers. In this paper, we describe a new acoustic cryptanalysis key extraction attack, applicable to GnuPG’s implementation of RSA. The attack can extract full 4096-bit RSA decryption keys from laptop computers (of various models), within an hour, using the sound generated by the computer during the decryption of some chosen ciphertexts. We experimentally demonstrate such attacks, using a plain mobile phone placed next to the computer, or a more sensitive microphone placed 10 meters away.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-443
Number of pages52
JournalJournal of Cryptology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Acoustic emanations
  • Cryptanalysis
  • RSA
  • Side channel attacks


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