What Are Eavesdropping Attacks? | Fortinet (2024)

Eavesdropping Methods

With eavesdropping, attackers can use various methods to launch attacks that typically involve the use of various eavesdropping devices to listen in on conversations and review network activity.

A typical example of an electronic listening device is a concealed bug physically placed in a home or office. This could occur by leaving a bug under a chair or on a table, or by concealing a microphone within an inconspicuous object like a pen or a bag. This is a simple approach but could lead to more sophisticated, difficult-to-detect devices being installed, such as microphones within lamps or ceiling lights, books on a bookshelf, or in picture frames on the wall.

Despite all the number of technological advances making digital eavesdropping increasingly easy in this day and age, many attacks still rely on intercepting telephones. That is because telephones have electric power, built-in microphones, speakers, space for hiding bugs, and are easy to quickly install a bug on. Eavesdropping attackers can monitor conversations in the room the telephone is in and calls to telephones anywhere else in the world.

Modern-day computerized phone system make it possible to intercept phones electronically without direct access to the device. Attackers can send signals down the telephone line and transmit any conversations that take place in the same room, even if the handset is not active. Similarly, computers have sophisticated communication tools that enable eavesdropping attackers to intercept communication activity, from voice conversations, online chats, and even bugs in keyboards to log what text users are typing.

Computers also emit electromagnetic radiation that sophisticated eavesdroppers can use to reconstruct a computer screen’s contents. These signals can be carried up to a few hundred feet and extended further through cables and telephone lines, which can be used as antennas.

Pickup device

Attackers can use devices that pick up sound or images, such as microphones and video cameras, and convert them into an electrical format to eavesdrop on targets. Ideally, it will be an electrical device that uses power sources in the target room, which eliminates the need for the attacker to access the room to recharge the device or replace its batteries.

Some listening devices are capable of storing digital information and transmitting it to a listening post. Attackers may also use mini amplifiers that enable them to remove background noise.

Transmission link

A transmission link between a pickup device and the attacker’s receiver can be tapped for eavesdropping purposes. This can be done in the form of a radiofrequency transmission or a wire, which includes active or unused telephone lines, electrical wires, or ungrounded electrical conduits. Some transmitters can operate continuously, but a more sophisticated approach involves remote activation.

Listening post

A listening post is used to transmit conversations intercepted by bugs on telephones. When a telephone is picked up to make or take a call, it triggers a recorder that is automatically turned off when the call is ended.

Listening posts are secure areas in which signals can be monitored, recorded, or retransmitted by the attacker for processing purposes. It can be located anywhere from the next room to the telephone up to a few blocks away. The listening post will have voice-activated equipment available to eavesdrop on and record any activity.

Weak passwords

Weak passwords make it easier for attackers to gain unauthorized access to user accounts, which gives them a route into corporate systems and networks. This includes hackers being able to compromise confidential communication channels, intercept activity and conversations between colleagues, and steal sensitive or valuable business data.

Open networks

Users who connect to open networks that do not require passwords and do not use encryption to transmit data provide an ideal situation for attackers to eavesdrop. Hackers can monitor user activity and snoop on communications that take place on the network.

What Are Eavesdropping Attacks? | Fortinet (2024)


What Are Eavesdropping Attacks? | Fortinet? ›

An eavesdropping

Eavesdropping is the act of secretly or stealthily listening to the private conversation or communications of others without their consent in order to gather information.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Eavesdropping
attack occurs when a hacker intercepts, deletes, or modifies data that is transmitted between two devices. Eavesdropping, also known as sniffing or snooping, relies on unsecured network communications to access data in transit between devices.

What are eavesdropping attacks? ›

An eavesdropping attack, also known as a wiretapping or listening attack, is a popular cyber attack in networking. In this attack, an attacker intercepts and listens to communications between two parties without their knowledge or consent.

What is eavesdropping simple? ›

Eavesdropping is the act of secretly or stealthily listening to the private conversation or communications of others without their consent in order to gather information.

Which type of attack involves eavesdropping? ›

A man-in-the-middle attack is a form of cyber eavesdropping where a hacker secretly intercepts and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other.

What is the conclusion of eavesdropping attack? ›

Conclusion: Eavesdropping attacks are stealthy and remain a formidable threat in our digitally interconnected world. These malicious practices involve the interception and surveillance of our online communications, potentially exposing our sensitive data and violating our privacy.

Why is it called eavesdropping? ›

Eavesdrop started off literally: first it referred to the water that fell from the eaves of a house, then it came to mean the ground where that water fell. Eventually, eavesdropper described someone who stood within the eavesdrop of a house to overhear a conversation inside.

What is eavesdropping listening? ›

Eavesdropping refers to the listening in of private conversations and/or observing private conduct without obtaining consent from the party being watched.

What is eavesdrop simple? ›

eaves·​drop. eavesdropped; eavesdropping. : to listen secretly to what is being said in private without the consent of the speaker compare bug, wiretap. eavesdropper noun.

Is eavesdropping good or bad? ›

Eavesdropping violates other people's privacy, so it's not okay. Some eavesdroppers try to justify their eavesdropping by saying that the other person doesn't know, so they're not hurt by the action.

What is a simple sentence for eavesdropping? ›

He was eavesdropping [=listening in] on his sister and her friends in the next room. She was accused of eavesdropping on private telephone conversations.

Why do people eavesdrop? ›

Another Common Reason People Eavesdrop

Eavesdropping can satisfy our natural curiosity. It makes sense, right? Overhearing conversations that (seemingly) have nothing to do with us provides a sense of escape. Even if only for a few minutes, we can take a break from our lives and immerse ourselves in others' challenges.

What is the best defense against attackers eavesdropping? ›

Prevent network eavesdropping attacks by encrypting data transmission and private conversations over a network or communication channel. One of the best ways to protect confidential data is to utilize military-grade encryption, making it nearly impossible for cybercriminals to get past it.

What is an example of active eavesdropping? ›

Man-in-the-middle attack (MitM)

A Man-in-the-middle attack is an active eavesdropping method that intrudes on the network system. It can retrieve and alter the information sent between two parties without anyone noticing.

What is an eavesdropping attack in simple words? ›

An eavesdropping attack occurs when a hacker intercepts, deletes, or modifies data that is transmitted between two devices. Eavesdropping, also known as sniffing or snooping, relies on unsecured network communications to access data in transit between devices.

What is the primary goal of an eavesdropper? ›

Eavesdropping has two underlying goals. Primarily, it seeks to monitor communication with high information fidelity. The intercepted communication should closely reflect the information that the sender is attempting to convey to the receiver.

How is eavesdropping a crime? ›

California Penal Code § 632 prohibits eavesdropping, defined as using an electronic amplifying or recording device to listen in on another person's confidential communication. The offense can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, and carries a maximum sentence of up to 3 years in jail.

Is eavesdropping illegal in the US? ›

It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given their prior consent. It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping.

What is Wi-Fi eavesdropping and what it can do? ›

Wi-Fi eavesdropping is a practice used by hackers to intercept data on wireless networks. This is often done to steal valuable financial or personal data. There are many Wi-Fi eavesdropping techniques. Some of the most common approaches include packet sniffers and rogue access points.

What to do when someone is eavesdropping? ›

If you're having a private conversation with someone, and you notice someone eavesdropping, quietly move the person you're talking to to another location, or confront the eavesdropper.

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