Janet Jackson song from 1989 declared a cybersecurity vulnerability for crashing hard...

midian182

Posts: 8,146   +96
Staff member
WTF?! "People of the world today, are we looking for a better way of life?" sang Janet Jackson on her 1989 hit Rhythm Nation, not knowing that the better way of life she was talking about didn't include certain hard drives. It's just been revealed that the song has the power to crash particular models of laptops, and it has now been recognized as a cybersecurity vulnerability.

As reported by The Reg, the strange tale comes from a Microsoft devblog by Raymond Chen. He writes that a colleague shared a story from Windows XP product support about how Jackson's track would crash certain models of laptops when it was played within proximity of the device.

It was discovered that the effect could be replicated on other laptops from multiple manufacturers, all of which shared a common feature; the same 5,400 RPM hard disk drive was found in the machines, which were popular sometime around 2005, or 16 years after Rhythm Nation just missed out on topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Don't play this near any laptops from the mid-2000s

The problem is that the song contains one of the natural resonant frequencies for that particular hard drive model. It caused the HD platters to contact the drive head, resulting in a crash.

The laptop manufacturers addressed the problem by adding a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback. The phasing out of 5,400 RPM hard drives in laptops and the declining popularity of Jackson's song likely helped, too.

Nevertheless, the quirk was added to the register of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures by The Mitre Corporation on August 17 and has been acknowledged by security vendor Tenable. Listed as CVE-2022-38392, it is described as "a certain 5400 RPM OEM hard drive, as shipped with laptop PCs in approximately 2005, allows physically proximate attackers to cause a denial of service (device malfunction and system crash) via a resonant-frequency attack with the audio signal from the Rhythm Nation music video."

In April last year, researchers at the Ben Gurion University in Israel demonstrated a technique called AiR-ViBeR that could steal data from air-gapped PCs—systems that are physically isolated with no online access—without being detected.

The proof-of-concept originated from the theory that it's possible to use vibrations produced by electromechanical components like a CPU, GPU, or case fans in combination with special malware that is able to encode the data to be transmitted through direct manipulation of the fan speed.

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Carlos GarPov

Posts: 128   +85
Not gonna lie, only read the title and it made my day hahahahahahahahaha. All of the jackson brothers and sisters wanted to get some fame out of Michael Jackson's shadow.
 

defaultluser

Posts: 477   +366
That's Miss Jackson, if your'e nasty.

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waclark

Posts: 550   +344
Is this what inspired the meme of using "resonant frequencies" to disrupt or destroy things in science fiction?
Not sure, but I think if we modulate the sub-space, distortion field on the forward array sensors we can inject a cross-channel frequency and combine that with the resonating harmonies to create a stream of alpha particles that will assemble the disk platter pieces back together.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,955   +6,999
Is this what inspired the meme of using "resonant frequencies" to disrupt or destroy things in science fiction?
Probably not. Perhaps you are trying to be sarcastic, but just in case you are not, it's been known for a long time that it is possible for some people, notably talented female sopranos (real singers not anyone from the TV show) to sing a resonant frequency and break a wineglass. IMO, its more likely to have come from that, but there are various other cases in history where resonant frequencies have destroyed things, too. For instance, the Tacoma Narrows bridge which "danced in the wind"
Exactly where that meme came from is probably impossbile to determine, but it is scientifically accurate - so much so it is not fiction.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 1,478   +2,154
Probably not. Perhaps you are trying to be sarcastic, but just in case you are not, it's been known for a long time that it is possible for some people, notably talented female sopranos (real singers not anyone from the TV show) to sing a resonant frequency and break a wineglass. IMO, its more likely to have come from that, but there are various other cases in history where resonant frequencies have destroyed things, too. For instance, the Tacoma Narrows bridge which "danced in the wind"
Exactly where that meme came from is probably impossbile to determine, but it is scientifically accurate - so much so it is not fiction.
Yeah, I wasn't trying to imply it's not real whatsoever but the trope seems to get employed in ways where it wouldn't necessarily be a thing, basically as destructive sonic magic.