RAM volatility - temperature

Discussion in 'privacy problems' started by syncmaster913n, May 1, 2012.

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  1. syncmaster913n

    syncmaster913n Registered Member

    As everyone probably knows, reducing the temperature of RAM slows down the speed with which data diminishes from the memory modules. Does it go the other way? Does increasing the modules' temperature make data diminish more rapidly?

    The reason I am wondering is that I am reading around and it seems that there is no way to protect against cold boot attacks, other than locking the computer inside a case that is hard to break into within a reasonable amount of time. So I was just wondering if it is possible to go the temperature-increase route to make memory dumping impossible by implementing a mechanism that quickly raises the temperature (basically burns) of the modules when a certain type of trigger is activated / a certain action takes place. Could be useful for laptops, for example.

    Just wondering generally, so feel free to get creative with your answers :)
  2. noone_particular

    noone_particular Registered Member

    I can't speak for laptops, but my desktop unit has a tamper switch that engages when the case is opened. I don't see any reason why that switch couldn't activate a small heating element attached to the RAM sticks, or close a connection to a high voltage capacitor so it discharges into the RAM sticks, or maybe to an electronic valve and igniter on a miniature torch inside the case.

    What effect would an old style bulk eraser have on RAM? Maybe put one of those under the surface of the desk or in the wall as close to the tower as possible, set up to turn on whenever the power to the tower is cut.
  3. syncmaster913n

    syncmaster913n Registered Member

    Yeah my point exactly with the tampering switch; although first I would like to confirm that heating the RAM actually does what we hope it would do.

    I am actually considering carrying out a small personal project, more for fun than anything else. I think it would be even better than overheating the RAM as it wouldn't damage anything; overheating, if it works, might be cool for someone who has extremely valuable info on their encrypted drive, but I would personally be reluctant to install such a system for fear that it might someday activate by accident ;) that would be a shame.

    So here is what I plan to do:

    I am going to create a simple, small bluetooth signal transmitter, which can be worn in the form of a small ring on your index finger. The ring would contain a small button (located such that the risk of you pushing it by accident is extremely small, but easy to press when you want to). Once pressed, the transmitter sends a bluetooth signal to the PC/laptop/whatever, and this signal in turn immediately activates a minimized batch file, which does the following:

    1. Blocks all USB/firewire ports, keyboard, mouse, dvd drive, wifi, bluetooth
    2. Force kills all non-system processes, except for TrueCrypt / whatever OTF full disk encryption might be in use.
    3. Performs a clean shutdown of the PC.

    This way, since the PC would shut down cleanly, the key would be erased from RAM at shutdown. And since all input devices on the machine would be blocked, the attacker would not have the time to do anything with the unit to block the shutdown process in time (my machines shutdown completely in about 4 seconds if all non-system processes are killed).

    Should be a fun project, plus it will be cool to have the ability to activate any software with a ring button :)
    Last edited: May 2, 2012
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