The facilities we provide for living in the age of information technology are making information being processed with technological improvements more and more common every day. We are now able to carry information in discs about the size of a finger where not so much, back to 20 years ago, the same information was only be reached through hundreds of books on the shelves. All the libraries in the world are as close as our smartphone in our pocket …

A common feature of information-processing technologies is being under usage of electrical and electronic systems. This is, for sure, also the open door firstly applied by unauthorized persons who wish to access information. We know that electrical and electronic equipment voluntarily or unintentionally radiate some electromagnetic energy to their surroundings. The effect of this energy on the performance of the devices is observed under Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) subject. In terms of information security, there is a very serious threat in this case. TEMPEST is a code name that describes the work carried out to collect, examine, and reconstruct the information contained in electromagnetic energy emitted from electrical and electronic equipment. Although it seems like an abbreviation, TEMPEST is a name given by U.S. to the works in this subject. Yes, it may seem quite utopian at first sight, but TEMPEST has been used since the 1950s. The information is reconstructed by processing the electromagnetic leaks that propagate from the body of the information processing device to the air or to power network to which it is connected through its conductors. If this information is classified (confidential) information, of course the value is very high.

The first use of TEMPEST for intelligence purposes is that the British MI5 organization in the 1960s obtained information from France’s cryptographic communication in this way. However, during the Second World War, America had worked on this method and obtained a variety of information with similar principles, it can be understood from the documents that lost confidentiality today.

The first scientific and completely open work on TEMPEST was in 1985, an experiment and the paper explaining it by Wim Van Eck, a Dutch telecom researcher. The experiment  showed that a computer’s screen can be reconstructed from the electromagnetic emissions, meters away from the source.

So, what is the situation in Turkey ???

TEMPEST technology was brought to our country in the 1990s by a team that I was also a memeber of. In TÜBİTAK National Cryptology Institute, a TEMPEST laboratory was established and put in service for Turkish Armed Force and govermental bodies, by a protocol signed with the General Staff. So, although a little bit late compared to some leading states, the technology can still be pursued with national possibilities. The question that needs to be emphasized here is, what technologies do these advanced nations develop in our country’s today?

This article was published in periodical “Science and Technology to Everybody (Herkese Bilim Teknoloji)”, February 10, 2017.