SURLYSPAWN: NSA Exploit of the Day
Today’s item from the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:
(TS//SI//REL TO USA,FVEY) Data RF retro-reflector. Provides return modulated with target data (keyboard, low data rate digital device) when illuminated with radar.
(TS//SI//REL TO USA,FVEY) SURLYSPAWN has the capability to gather keystrokes without requiring any software running on the targeted system. It also only requires that the targeted system be touched once. The retro-reflector is compatible with both USB and PS/2 keyboards. The simplicity of the design allows the form factor to be tailored for specific operational requirements. Future capabilities will include laptop keyboards.
(U) Concept of Operation
(TS//SI//REL TO USA,FVEY) The board taps into the data line from the keyboard to the processor. The board generates a square wave oscillating at a preset frequency. The data-line signal is used to shift the square wave frequency higher or lower, depending on the level of the data-line signal. The square wave, in essence, becomes frequency shift keyed (FSK). When the unit is illuminated by a CW signal from a nearby radar, the illuminating signal is amplitude-modulated (AM) with this square wave. The signal is re-radiated, where it is received by the radar, demodulated, and the demodulated signal is processed to recover the keystrokes. SURLYSPAWN is part of the ANGRYNEIGHBOR family of radar retro-reflectors.
Unit Cost: $30
Status: End processing still in development.
In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.