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Title:Ethernet energy scavenging: Parasitic power & cyber risk at the physical layer
Author(s):Saebeler, Alec
Contributor(s):Levchenko, Kirill
energy harvesting
network security
power scavenging
parasitic power
hardware intrusion
Abstract:Cybersecurity considerations are increasingly at the forefront of modern product development and system designs; the predominance of Ethernet protocol utilization for network connectivity has created a significant physical layer attack vector. When anticipating challenges an adversary would face in attempting to exploit this potential weakness, a significant obstacle to overcome is the ability to effectively design circuitry capable of physical-layer network intrusion while simultaneously achieving independent parasitic power draw without detection. At a macro-level, monitoring of a host system would identify an extra piece of power circuitry supporting intrusive activity far more easily than the detection of a self-contained device subtly drawing its power without additional wires. The core of this research centers on determining the likelihood of an adversary syphoning power to a device via the data signals processed by standard network activity, while simultaneously gaining unauthorized access to targeted data. The underlying process of powering something via a nonpower signal is known as energy scavenging. Successfully leveraging this process could position an adversary to manipulate this attack vector. An approach is proposed where a small-form device accesses data over an Ethernet connection while also powered by the same physical interface; this method is arguably difficult to detect using standard cybersecurity monitoring. The result would be no perceivable impact on daily client/server activity while remaining undetected unless specifically targeted. Potential approaches for achieving this objective are analyzed, while interpreting both physical signal measurements and simulated outcomes for power draw and ranges of nominal detectability. Additionally, the thesis asserts the likelihood of how future research might reveal improved device functionality and define guidelines for research extensions. The work supports the minimally intrusive nature of the design, explores viability, and establishes a design plan for building a functioning prototype. Notwithstanding the complexity and challenges associated with implementing such a design, its feasibility should promote an appropriately focused response.
Issue Date:2020-05
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-06-12

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