Data Encryption Isn't So Secure, After All

Researchers find easy method to steal protected information
By Laila Weir,  Newser User
Posted Feb 22, 2008 1:29 PM CST
A circuit board with a S5 Wireless chip in the middle is held in front of a computer monitor at the company's headquarters Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Accessing encrypted data can be as simple as chilling a computer memory chip, according to a Princeton research group. The researchers were able to break through encryption in Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating systems, reports the New York Times, calling into question the security methods that companies, government agencies, and individuals use to protect data.

Information temporarily stored on DRAM chips, including keys to data scrambling, gets erased when power is lost—but only after seconds or even minutes. By blasting chips with cold air, the researchers were able to freeze that data in place, making it available long after power is cut off and allowing the chip to be moved to another machine with the information intact.