WaveSpy: Remote and Through-wall Screen Attack via mmWave Sensing
2020 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (SP)
Digital screens, such as liquid crystal displays (LCDs), are vulnerable to attacks (e.g., "shoulder surfing") that can bypass security protection services (e.g., firewall) to steal confidential information from intended victims. The conventional practice to mitigate these threats is isolation. An isolated zone, without accessibility, proximity, and line-of-sight, seems to bring personal devices to a truly secure place. In this paper, we revisit this historical topic and re-examine the security
... isk of screen attacks in an isolation scenario mentioned above. Specifically, we identify and validate a new and practical side-channel attack for screen content via liquid crystal nematic state estimation using a low-cost radio-frequency sensor. By leveraging the relationship between the screen content and the states of liquid crystal arrays in displays, we develop WaveSpy, an endto-end portable through-wall screen attack system. WaveSpy comprises a low-cost, energy-efficient and light-weight millimeterwave (mmWave) probe which can remotely collect the liquid crystal state response to a set of mmWave stimuli and facilitate screen content inference, even when the victim's screen is placed in an isolated zone. We intensively evaluate the performance and practicality of WaveSpy in screen attacks, including over 100 different types of content on 30 digital screens of modern electronic devices. WaveSpy achieves an accuracy of 99% in screen content type recognition and a success rate of 87.77% in Top-3 sensitive information retrieval under real-world scenarios, respectively. Furthermore, we discuss several potential defense mechanisms to mitigate screen eavesdropping similar to WaveSpy.