Steven Veach

Bits at risk  Putting a laptop computer on sleep mode does not guarantee that its data will remain secure, according to a study from Princeton’s Center for Information and Technology Policy. Researchers devised a way to sidestep disk encryption systems by lifting information from the computer’s random access memory (RAM), where data is stored while it is being used. A computer’s RAM retains its contents for a brief time after power is shut off (and even longer if the memory chip is removed and cooled). With just a few minutes of physical access to a computer, the Princeton team was able to make a near-perfect copy of its RAM, search the data for encryption keys, and access protected information. After exploring possible defenses against the memory attacks, the researchers concluded that there is “no easy remedy.” More details and a video explaining the research are available at http://citp.princeton.edu/memory/.