🪶 Hardware, Software, and Van Eck

In a recent job interview a CTO and I discussed van eck phreaking. Also known as a tempest attack. We were discussing the company’s hardware & software teams and I asked what it’s like to oversee the two. He said something along the lines of how close their work is, but how far away the two can be in certain discussions. It rang eerily familiar to the part in Cryptonomicon when Avi mentioned van eck phreaking, so I snuck it into the conversation a little later.

This led to the gem of our entire conversation. He said, “it’s really neat to think about how complexity grows as you move up each layer from hardware.” This came after he discussed how hardware people are like, my rules are physics and software people are more like, my rules are computational logic and then hardware people go, that relies on physics.

Talked to three people at the company that day, and I can't recall conversations with the other two including the CEO, but this statement about complexity moving up layer by layer rang in my head the entire 45 minute drive home. Yeah, complexity is a good abstraction for telling stories to ourselves and others, and might show that you understand something when you really don't, but this was fine in regards to our discussion. Largely due to the fact that we were discussing attack surfaces to begin with, and a lack of understanding is one cause to such vulnerabilities.

He referenced the evolution from analog computers to computers with amazing OS’s, massive applications, then to mobile, then to cloud, and how the more complex an ecosystem, the more vulnerabilities arise.

All in all, this conversation reminded me that while software often hogs the limelight, it's the unsung heroes—the hardware teams—who shape the physical realm that brings our software wonders to life. As technology marches forward, from analog to mind-boggling operating systems, it's a constant reminder that complexity is the playground where both innovation and exploitation thrive.

So, as we wade through the waters of technological progress and the imminent arrival of software's new abodes, let's not forget the metallurgists behind the scenes. Their mastery of hardware is the foundation on which our digital dreams are built. In this dance between hardware and software, understanding and appreciating both sides ensures we waltz securely through the ever-changing landscape of technology, while keeping the mischievous vulnerabilities at bay.

PS: I want an at home DIY hardware project, let me know of any good ones.

#thoughts #tech #infosec