Van Eck phreaking is a type of eavesdropping in which bad actors collect data from electronic devices and decode the electromagnetic radiation they emit.

The attack is hard to detect as the attacker can execute it without physical access to the device, leaving no traces on the system. However, a successful attack requires high technical knowledge, specific equipment and proximity to the device.

How to Protect Against Van Eck Phreaking

History of Van Eck Phreaking

In a 1985 paper titled ‘Electromagnetic Radiation from Video Display Units: An Eavesdropping Risk? ‘ Wim van Eck describes how electromagnetic radiation emitted by computers can be recorded and used to decode data.

While the concept existed before, van Eck’s publication brought this potential security risk to the foray. Demonstrations and experiments were later done to validate the concept. For example, scientists Sylvain Pasini and Martin Vuagnoux demonstrated an attack on two popular cypher algorithms, showing the potential risks of electromagnetic eavesdropping.