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Thread: Computer Access Without It Being Turned On???

  1. #1 Computer Access Without It Being Turned On??? 
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    A friend and I recently got into a heated debate about something he claimed to have read in the Wall Street Journal. He stated that a case for espionage had occurred wherein someone's laptop was accessed without it being even turned on. This is to say that someone remotely accessed the hard drive in the laptop while it was turned off.

    I say this is utter BS and that he merely misunderstood what he had read. Even if the laptop's hard drive was solid state which was never made clear either way, without the physical removal of the hard drive, the information on the powerless drive cannot be accessed (that is to say operated in the sense that information can be both installed to the drive and copied from the drive) within the laptop from a remote location. Even 10 feet away for that matter. I simply do not believe this is possible. What do you think?

    Now, I really want to stay away from "well, if you are familiar with radio telescope technology, you know that..."

    That's all fine and theoretical but what I want to know is if this is clearly possible or not in the good old "here & now".


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  3. #2  
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    I could propose two (more or less) real options for that:
    1) The particular series of computers has a feature made by manufacturer. It allows to access the hard drive by connecting to some port on the PC (I think this was a laptop). I believe this was leaved for service purposes (not an intentionally made backdoor), so ask guys at service centers.

    2) Keep in mind, that all the info comes to public from law enforcements undergo "censorship" to avoid disclosure of methods. Moreover, if you read something in "general public" (i.e. non-technical) press, keep in mind that info was in hands of technically unskilled people such as journalists and correctors. They often generalize technical terms. So "booting from flash drive without loading Windows" may turn to "without switching computer on".


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  4. #3  
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    Let me rephrase some basic information concerning this ultra fantastic pseudo (IMO) scenario.

    1) No magical viruses that make it seem as though the computer powers down in this scenario.

    2) No cables connected to laptop whatsoever.

    3) No power applied to laptop computer in which violated hard drive resides whatsoever.

    4) There is positively no physical tampering with the entirety of the composite electronic components within the complete mechanism that is the laptop supposedly being breached.

    It has been well and factually acknowledged, for several years now, that solid state drives are very vulnerable to physical data retrieval. That is to state that the drive/chip must be removed from the computer in order to accomplish this task. This isn't a sophisticated task in the least. What currently makes it progressively more and more difficult to accomplish however is the level of encryption that the data is protected by.

    This imaginary hack (IMO) scenario that is represented by my OP here on this forum means NO physical or normal wireless internet contact (how can there be, there's no power present with respect for the computer being hacked) whatsoever between the hacker and the hacked.

    This is to state that there would have to exist a technology that could remotely (from a distance, yet possibly still within the same room or mass transit source, ie plane, train, etc.) retrieve information from the hacker's target, the non powered laptop's hard drive, with said drive still intact within the laptop the hacker is attempting to breach.

    I say this is utterly impossible. I don't even understand (of course!) how it could be theoretically imaginable.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Masters Degree Twit of wit's Avatar
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    No, it's not possible while the computer is turned off. The only way it could be done is to remotely turn it on, copy the data and turn it off again.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Junior TheDr.Spo's Avatar
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    I would have to agree, it's not possible unless the hard drive was turned on somehow. Tell your friend that he shouldn't believe everything he reads.
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  7. #6  
    Time Lord
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    Without getting too technical, modern computers do not power off so absolutely as the casual user is given to believe. It is easy (and sometimes useful) to configure a computer so that after being "shut down" it wakes on LAN signal or whatever.

    To access a hard drive the computer needs more power than the trickle available when "off". Assuming this laptop was woken through a wireless internet connection, I'm sure you'd hear the fans spin up and see case lights blinking i.e "turned on".
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  8. #7  
    Forum Freshman seoexon's Avatar
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    He must be kidding this isn't possible. Focus on your own sense's can harddrive work without power??
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