Simple RF Weapon Can Fry PC Circuits
Scientists show device that could make the electromagnetic spectrum the terrorist weapon of choice.
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MARYLAND -- A weapon built out of parts from any electronics store can deliver radio frequency radiation that can burn out electronic circuits within seconds, according to a recent demonstration by scientists here.
Many government officials fear terrorists could use the simple device to disrupt computer networks or paralyze electronic equipment. Because of its small size, the weapon could be stowed in a van or briefcase and used to wreak havoc on government offices, hospitals, airports, or other targets.
The device, assembled with commonly available components, delivers quick, powerful bursts of RF radiation. Just about any unprotected electronic equipment is at risk, including PCs, home security systems, police scanners, and medical and air-traffic control equipment.
Businesses can protect their computer networks by using metal product enclosures on hardware and radio frequency filter lines on power lines, says Randy Bernard, vice president of Schriner Engineering, which built the device for a demonstration to government officials. Also, Bernard urges businesses to keep an offsite data storage area to back up materials that could not be protected.
"For the guy at home in front of his computer, I'd say don't worry about this," Bernard says. "But if your business has something to lose, then you might want to pay attention. It may not be an immediate threat, but it's something you should keep in mind."
But the demonstration is a wake-up call for government and others in technology industries, Bernard notes.
Equipment Crashes, Croaks
"Our whole nation is vulnerable," says David Schriner, a weapons specialist and engineer who codesigned the radio frequency device. "We dance along with all this high technology, and we're very dependent on it. But if it breaks, where will we be?"
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