Can a Computer Be Hacked If It’s Not Connected to the Internet?



Can an Offline Computer Be Hacked?

Hacking has become synonymous with today’s digital ecosystem, and whether it is the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or JP Morgan, size, resources or capability are irrelevant if someone wants the information you have badly enough. The breach these organizations experienced is proof. But in these cases, some points of their infrastructure were connected to the internet, which might lead one to ask, can my computer be hacked if it is not connected?



Can an Offline Computer be Hacked?

Technically — as of right now — the answer is no. If you never connect your computer, you are 100 percent safe from hackers on the internet. There is no way someone can hack and retrieve, alter or monitor information without physical access. But there are efforts to overcome this obstacle.  A New York Times article reported about an NSA technology allowing hackers to get into a computer, even if it is not connected and alter the data. But even this technology requires physical access to the computer. According to the Times report, “In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.”

This however is not the only way unconnected computers or smartphones can be accessed or monitored. An article on Business Insider reveals several ways in which this can be achieved. These include electromagnetic radiation spying, power consumption analysis, using a smartphone’s accelerometer as a Key Logger, radio waves that intercept the most secure of networks, using the heat generated by your computer, and accessing data through steel walls.

Most of these techniques are in the research phase carried out by scientists in ideal conditions, and your average hacker will not be able to replicate them. But it highlights the developments that are taking place in this segment.

So What are the Chances These Technologies Will be Used Against a Small Business?

Small business owners want to protect their business data and that of their customers, but how realistic is it for these methods to be used against you? For the vast majority, it is going to be slim to none. This doesn’t mean small businesses will not be targeted, because there are many small businesses that provide specialized services for public and private entities that are high-value targets. So you must protect all your computing devices equally, no matter who you are serving and whether they are connected or not.

Securing Your Mobile Computer

Whether it is a laptop, smartphone or tablet, it is critically important to secure the device so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. But life being what it is, it can get lost, stolen or forgotten, and it is in these moments when it doesn’t matter if a device is connected or not. If the data is on the device, it gives the person or entity that is in possession of it as much time as they need to retrieve it. By making it more difficult to retrieve the data, you have a better chance of taking the necessary measures to counter act the damage the information will cause.



Here are some measures you can take to protect your unconnected device:

  1. Use strong encryption that makes it very hard or almost impossible to access the data. This gives you many options, and if the data is time sensitive it might be useless when the offenders finally decrypt the drive, if they ever do.
  2. Install remote wipe/lock software. As the name implies, this allows you to lock and wipe your device, but it has to be connected to the internet for it to work. If those who stole your device are professionals, the last thing they will do is connect it, so in reality this technology has limitations. But for your average theft, this might be perfectly effective.
  3. Never have important information on your computer. You can use cloud technology to store your data, and retrieve it anytime you want. This means if your computer gets into the wrong hands while you are in transit to that important meeting, you can use any other device to access your data. And if you don’t trust the cloud providers because they have also been hacked, you can create your own cloud for more control.

Conclusion

If the CIA can get hacked, anyone can, and any security expert worth his/her credentials will tell you there is no such thing as being 100 percent secure. This applies to the digital or physical world. The stolen laptop of the Secret Service agent that reportedly had Trump Tower’s floor plans, information about the Hillary Clinton email probe and other national security information is yet one more proof.

Fortunately, there are many solutions in the market place to make it very difficult for anyone to get to your information. And unless you are working on a new prototype that will change the world or hold state secrets, hackers and other criminals will look for easier targets.

Code Photo via Shutterstock 7 Comments ▼


Michael Guta


Michael Guta Michael Guta is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends focusing on business systems, gadgets and other small business news. He has a background in information and communications technology coordination.

7 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    Hackers are really good. I watched a show that says that they can even hack your phone with just some earphones as antenna. It’s scary.

  2. It isn’t exactly true that one can never be hacked if not connected to the internet — look at Stuxnet. Iranian centrifuge controls were hacked through an either witting or unwitting agent placing a USB drive into the system which was air-gapped from the internet. The USB infected the system and caused the centrifuges to fail. This isn’t just spy-stuff. Anyone running automated system controls — power plants, factory systems, chemical plants — even when air-gapped from the internet are susceptible to malicious attack and subsequent damage or ransom.

  3. its not true about not getting hacked if offline there is more then a couple ways to tell you the truths to get this data, they could implant a small device onto the computer that infects the closed-off network with a piece of malware. Then, this malware can collect data on the infected network and send it via radio signals that every computer video card automatically generates or another complicated tactic to extract data from air-gapped, or offline, computers. And it uses the heat from the motherboard as a method of wireless data transfer. or key stroke reading a smart phone had a accelerometer that can be used for that. and i believe they can even use read the electromagnetic radiation the computer emits and read the key strokes it makes. or people believe there off line but it may infact be hooked up to a computer that monitors it for over heating and you could make it send fake over heating warnings then use that to send data out that way to. so im sure there is more ways to that nobody knows but im sure there is lol thanks for your time

  4. The problem is not jusy what is contained in information ie intellevtual property, there is a monetary equivalent. There are costs addociated with loss productivity, and cost asdociated with missed deadlines and its addociated loss in rebenues, finally, when access is cir umvented, thete is a breech of confidentiality confidentiality especiality ad a mefical profesdional

  5. It is true what Criog Godfry says. I was hacked thru by downloading files from school which is thru the account name of my principal at school. I knew he is a hacker and so with his right hand IT man, at the very first time because he wants to know my password in my personal email… indirectly as he asked me. Of course am I nuts? So, he used all he could by giving us links…and he uses his own name for it and passwords. Then as we clicked, it asked us for our gmails or personal accounts and passwords (luckily I put phone code permission in it) so as you opened, it keeps turning for few minutes and it says passwords wrong. hahaha … but it doesn’t stopped from there… he also used, as if true links and as we accessed and downloaded those files, it became virus…so it infected your phones or laptops and he installed without you knowing in the name of Delta search in my pc…

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