What is the TEMPEST?

— 3:09 AM on January 2, 2001

The Register is reporting that John Young has just won the right to publish the National Security Agency's secret TEMPEST documents on his website.

No one is quite sure what TEMPEST stands for (some say it's an acronym for: Telecommunications Electronics Material Protected From Emanating Spurious Transmissions". Others say it is nothing more than a code word), but what it means is quite simple: electromagnetic and acoustic signals which can be remotely detected and interpreted by a spy.

The NSA's concern, obviously, is any government equipment which process national security information in plain text. Hence its TEMPEST programme, which explains how to shield equipment and buildings against such exploitation.

And now, thanks to Young, we will all soon be able to figure out how to make our electronic equipment as quiet as the government's. This could be quite useful to academic and corporate researchers, whose activities are of sufficient value to make them targets of TEMPEST-style exploitation.

Still not sure what this is about? The unofficial TEMPEST information page will help clue you in.

Separately, The Register asks if Intel is ready to roll out their 1GHz Pentium III mobile processors. It is doubtful, but you can read about it here nonetheless.

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