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Super Shielded PC Cases 68

mvw sent us an amusing link for the super paranoid. These cases claim to be all shielded, all filtered, and emit none of the stuff those snoopers like to listen to. Plus it looks like it could be dropped from a low flying jet and keep ticking.
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Super Shielded PC Cases

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  • The government has purchased sheilded electronic equpment for years, as protection against tempest.

    A quick search of IBM's patent server service revealed several interesting patents:

    The best source of tempest info is this:

    And for protecting yourself from EMP interference or doing it yourself, nitoring.article


    HERE is a really interesting company:
  • If you want real TEMPEST equipment, check out Hetra Secure Solutions [] (shameless plug) They sell all sorts of cool TEMPEST stuff, including rugged laptops and stuff. This is real TEMPEST equipment. They also sell TEMPEST moniters, printers, scanners, servers, you name it... You must be a US citizen to buy it though. =)
  • All of the lines are filtered. If you are using approved cables, they are heavily shielded as well. (If you're not using approved cables, you've defeated the point of the case anyway). Since the point of the setup is not EMP protection, it all really depends on how over-designed it is.

    If it's milspec, I'll give it better than average odds.

  • I used to work at a company that produced TEMPEST equipment. For a demonstration to some news reporters, they decided to demonstrate what tempest is. They setup a laptop on one end of a large room, and on the other side of the room had an antennae, some nifty equipment, and a CRT. They then proceded to display the LCD's video image on the CRT. I don't think the reporters understood...but none the less, LCDs do emmit readable TEMPEST emmisions.

    Another problem is that the video port emmits TEMPEST, the video cable (even the shielded ones) emmit radiation, and the power outlet that the display is plugged into emmits radiation.

    The only real solution is to purchase certified TEMPEST equipment.

  • There's nothing more sinister-looking than a dark brooding Courier, with its row of hellish-looking red LEDs flashing.

    So I'm not the only one that thought WOPR (from WarGames) was the damndest cool-looking computer ever?

    (Okay, so it wasn't black, but it was definitely sinister-looking ;-)
  • That is a good way to do it. Syncing with the signal isn't too hard, it's just like the vertical and horizontal hold knobs on an old TV. With a little more sophistication, the horizontal and vertical; blanking can be analyzed for automated synching (but why bother, it's easy enough).

  • These things look familiar.

    In my stint in the USAF, we used something very simular to these for secure data transfer (the data transfer bit used STU-III units). The difference between those pictured and what I remember was the drive area was covered by two swinging "doors". I'm thinking what is pictured is an earlier model.

    These things were HEAVY. Obviously designed with more rugged services in mind (seemed more USA than USAF). They had wire mesh shielding along all contact poits (top of case, the aforementioned doors, etc). The idea is to direct all errant signal to ground instead of inadvertantly broadcasting them to whoever might be able to listen.

    They were also woefully behind the times - when 486DX4s were going against the first Pentiums, we had a 386. They worked fine for their task. But man, were they slow.

    I wouldn't be suprised t find out that these puppies are military surplus.

  • All the cables need to be twisted pairs, much like the phone company uses. This way the EMP (almost) cancels itself out.
  • by jd ( 1658 )
    Almost any computer can be dropped from an aeroplane and keep working. It's only when it hits the ground that you run into problems.
  • ...we all know the Feds will be using M$-designed surveillance software...

    "Um boss" "Yes?"

    "We can't scan his machine." "Why not?"

    "Our tools won't run on his machine! They require a Pentium III! He's got a 386!"
    "Sneaky Bastard!"

  • For some reason, most military stuff is incredibly uncute, rough and seems to be built with a hammer and an axe.

    For non classified information, I'd still buy that cutie 1U Penguin rackable box I seen a banner for on slashdot lately. (I have no links to the compagny, but their site is worth visiting, their servers look really sexy). Maybe on the adfu page you can find their banner :-)
  • That's great and well for the CPU chassis, but if you want any output from the machine, the "snoopers" will have a much better target with that large electron gun you usually look at for results. (On a different note, that vendor does have documentation of EMI test results for each case to prove it meets the Tempest spec. right? =) Now if they sell boxes with lead walls, you may be able to purchase a secure working environment... until you need network connectivity, anyway.
  • So will they protect my PC from an EMP? Somebody drops a nuke, and I could lose serious Quake Area play time.

  • This guy's info is, at best, dated. "Tempest" hasn't been the approved term since 1996 -- "EMSEC" (Emissions Security) is now the official term. And last I checked, the EMSEC instructions don't provide allowances for all this shielding (whether they should is a different discussion) -- the "minimum spacing" requirements to separate classified & unclassified systems (and even classified systems rated for different levels of classification) would still hold.
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • Did anyone else notice this "case" is a slightly modified IBM PC XT 5150?
  • Well, you also need electricity while falling down. So an attached cable (very long) would be helpful.

  • There's a book thats basically an historical account of the British intelligence agencies during the World War II era and the autobiography of the author, Peter Wright. It seems to be out of print so I won't post an Amazon URL.

    Anyway, one of their escapades was to insert a pair of microphones either in the room with or directly inside a typewriter keyboard. From the sounds recorded this way they could reproduce what the typist was typing. Sort of a low-tech (high-tech at the time!) implementation of a TEMPTEST-like scheme.

    If you can find it try reading the book. It starts off as a fairly good read and reveals some of the real way espionage agencies can get information. The writing style deteriorates later on (fired the ghost writer or hired a different ghost writer?)
  • by shogun ( 657 )
    No you just throw out a UPS as well. You wouldn't need an especially long life one too, 5 minutes is about all the backup power it would need. Hopefull long enough for it to backup everything on the hard drive to another machine that isn't at terminal velocity through wireless ethernet.
  • by Enry ( 630 )
    Van Eck Phreaking only works within a few meters of where the monitor is. The monitor is the biggest broadcaster (nice broadband at about 10dB), so all you really need to do if you're that paranoid is get a few ferrite cores and clamp them on the video signal cable and to the power cable. Don't forget your aluminum foil hats.

    For those of us less paranoid, make sure that your case is closed. See them little metal springy thingies that are along the seams? Don't lose them. They keep the PC in FCC spec. Don't leave any rear IO fillers out either. Not only is it bad for airflow, but it lets EM radiation out too.
  • by Scipher ( 35125 )
    Hey this thing looks damn cool. I'd wanna get my hands on one simply because of that. Perfect for skydiving too...

  • I was just going to say that...the 4th picture down on the left looks a lot like an old IBM XT case. So that's where they all went...

  • Whoa, first one in a while that's made it to X = 10+. Party on, Wayne!

    1) Bomb Shelter

    2) Garbage can for AOL 30 Day Trial CDs.

    3) Office cot.

    4) A nifty hat. Come on, you know you've been tempted!

    5) Really expensive paperweight.

    6) Something else to spill coffee on.

    7) Bulletin board.

    8) Dildo.

    9) Something else to throw out the window and watch go "kerplunk".

    10) A new comfy home for the hamster that runs everything by wheel power.

    11) A superfast, top of the line, totally dedicated working environment for reloading /. every 30 seconds.
  • This thing looks like a yuk-83. which btw, are computer devised for the military that are EM sheilded or something.. usually had 386 or 486 in them.. and weighed a ton... we even used them as servers.. (ick!)
  • How many nerds do you know that actually use a computer case? :-)

  • Try PC Power and Cooling []. Also, Silent Systems [] has some nice stuff quiet enough to use in sound studios.
  • Paranoia will destroy yah... honest, mum.

    Is there really any point to these 'beasts' ? I know that there are reasons to encrypt data, and that MI5 sand-blast their hard drives after use, but surely there must be a limit...
  • what's wrong with using an optical link to outside your lead box? you could have network connectivity then... just have to be careful that you're not using DES to encrypt everything :-)

  • Yeah, who needs a POS 486 box that's shielded? I'd much rather have a mid-tower or server box that's beefed up like this thing purports to be. Looks like someone got bored with their old-skool packard bell case and spray painted the ugly thing black. Sucks.
  • That's a good start. The pairs should also run inside a shield grounded to the case. Not too hard to construct.

  • FYI: This is available now, and is built in to the PGP windows client.

    On the issue of the case, it is almost exactly the opposite of what I need! My perfect case might have some of these qualities:

    1) Ultra-light frame
    2) Maximum internal size versus frame size
    3) Quicklock removable case - to access the insides in a hurry, while closing quickly for transport (no more combing the carpet for a screw)
    4) Case handles for easy luggability
    5) built in CD Rack


    anyone else care to contribute?
  • That may cover the net connection, but the monitor has a higher drag coefficient than the boat anchor box. So, you'll need locking connectors. The keyboard is likely to act like a wing and fly in its own direction, requiring it to be bonded to the box. He who has the fastest computer, wins!
  • GTE makes systems similar to this. They aren't Tempest shielded (the systems sit in metal shelters on the back of Hummers -- when the doors are closed on the shelters, the systems are Tempest protected), but they are called 'ruggedized'. Basically, this means these things can sit out in the desert in all the dust and have no problems. One came back from the field with a cup full of sand and it's not uncommon to find rocks in them. The systems can operate after being dropped (just don't drop them on anything you like, they are -way- heavy) and they can operate while being bounced around. One of the cool things is that these are high end systems. Ultra 2's and 10's with major memory and disk space. Basically, they're decent systems designed for harsh environments (the Army's battlefield, for instance).

    More info at: []
  • The components are dated and the information is out of spec. I assume the whole thing is a joke - some of the pictures look just like an original PC spraypainted black. Hey! I've got one running still (with an 8088) so you know what? I'm going to paint it black and sell it too!
  • No case? The poor thing would be naked! :-)

    My desk is covered in rubbish. My apartment is covered in rubbish. My computer, however, looks immaculate. I couldn't bear to have a messy computer with bits hanging out of it.

  • by cdlu ( 65838 )
    Ethernets only good over about 300 feet...

    You'll have to use wireless :)
  • Ross Anderson and friends at Cambridge[1] have been working on TEMPEST protection in software ... the idea is that by using special dither patterns you can get your screen to show one thing but come up with something else on the monitors of the spooks. See Information hiding [] - the paper [] (PDF) is quite interesting.

    [1] UK, not Massachusetts, thank you.

  • Yay! I can make a whole bunch of these things for myself! :) I have four old XTs, 2 CP/M Osbornes and 2 PS/2s to work with...:-)
  • When I went to Naval Intellegence school in 1992 these cases were everywhere. Even the MFM and Floppy disk cables had a thick mesh around them. We had to disassemble a few dozen for scrap, took us all day. They were mostly designed to meet standards for electronic emmissions for computers at sea. The requirements these days are much less strict. As for the 8088 processor, thats about right, although I can recall a few retrofitted with 386 upgrades. We ran Zenix on the 386's using a thick coax lan, and the system was designated "PC NIPS" for Naval Intelligence Processing Systems.
  • Metal cases, and they even painted it BLACK! I had to wipe away a tear of joy. Black equipment is always the best. Why do you think people were really interested in the NeXT cube? It wasn't really because of the software; they just pretended to like Nextstep later, after the cubes stopped being made. (Had to rationalize.)

    Oh.. and why do I use a USR Courier instead of a Sportster? Duh. Because it's black, of course. There's nothing more sinister-looking than a dark brooding Courier, with its row of hellish-looking red LEDs flashing.

    Of course, I used to use a black Micropolis drive, but it died, and now I use silver-white Quantum. Oh well, no theory is perfect.

    As for the metal cases.... I don't really care about shielding; I just like heavy metal computers. Yep. Like IBM keyboards ... *drool* .. oh, don't get me started on IBM keyboards.

  • I understand that that monitor is build to prevent Van-Eck video interception. But the last time I used a monochrome monitor was a TSR-80.
    Hey people, does anyone know how hard it is to pick up signals from an LCD monitor? I figured they are low-powered and would require completely different equipment to pick up an any signals it could put out. But I don't believe it puts out any signals. Thoughts?

    Erik Z
  • Not likely...the case might be able to ground out the blast, but you'll get a spike from every wire attached to the beast....everything from the power cable to the keyboard...
  • I work for a USAF contractor. We are provided GFE (government furnished equipment) for test reference. One machine is a GTSI desktop PC that, at one point, was used by most of the Air Force's COMSEC (communications security) people. Supposedly, as long as you use certified periphials and properly shielded cables, the thing has no problems with EMSEC (emissions security, the result of the TEMPEST program).

    The funny part is, it is an IBM Aptiva with a new sticker pasted on the front of it. Apparently, you don't need to use a two-inch-thick, lead-lined case for TEMPEST after all..... :-)
  • Go here []...
  • Ever seen an SU-27? [] Most military aircraft show an economy of form that, to me, is very beautiful. Some military hardware, like the M-1 tank, despite its profound ugliness, has a purposefulness that is an aesthetic all its own.

    Guess it IS in the eye of the beholder. : )
  • One of my cats used to chew on cables, until it happened to bite a 12v and a ground at the same time... Now it doesn't like to even come into this room :)
  • True, black machines are really cool. Years ago, I actually ripped my Amiga 2000 apart and spraypainted the case black. Obviously, I didn't paint the key caps...
    But it did look so great. A pity they won't let me do that with my office PC.
  • No to mention the emission of light that can be used by a nifty small camera somewhere in the ceiling...

    the perfect system would not have any display device at all. ;)
  • For those of you who have not clicked this link, I urge you to! It is the entrance page to a DIA site, which has a notice that "USE OF THIS OR ANY OTHER DEPT. OF DEFENSE INTEREST COMPUTER SYSTEM (DODICS)
    CONSTITUTES AN EXPRESS CONSENT TO MONITORING AT ALL TIMES." and then some other blurb in the same vein... And then an "AGREED" button.

    I did not click it, fearing of course that the NSA or suchlike would be taking my pc's to bits (well, more to bits) within the hour... but then the page automatically agreed for me after 30s.


  • No shit. I was once moving around a bunch of XTs, forgot to put the screws back in one, picked up the case, and the actual system slid out and landed on my not-very-shielded converse hi-tops.

  • For some reason, most military stuff is incredibly uncute, rough and seems to be built with a hammer and an axe

    Ahhh, but therein lies the beauty of it-- one hundred percent functional design, and absolutely top-of-the-line quality construction. Unlike most consumer products, which are built as cheaply as possible, and usually with the help of "product designers" to make them more palatable to mainstream consumer tastes. Ugh. (Ever seen the interior of a Ford lately?)

    It's kind of like UNIX versus Windows, when you think about it. After all, what some might consider ugly, in the aesthetic sense, may be technically beautiful to those in the know ;-)
  • Talking off the top of my head (hey this *is* slashdot, right?) wasn't the easiest way to snoop a CRT to get at the light intensity variation?

    i.e. We don't care where the electron beam is pointing, it is just illuminating (or not) one pixel at a time. So feed the light (any light, reflected or otherwise) from the room into something which chops it up at the right frequency (which is presumably one of a small number of standard ones) and you're away.

    Whilst a windowless room should be proof against this (as long as you black out the gap under the door ;-) simply closing the curtains probably won't help.

    [And yes, I know light is also electromagnetic radiation. By 'EM' I mean the stuff which a Faraday cage is hoping to ground out. Sorry if this is insufficiently pedantic.]
  • I would care a whole lot more if someone would sell a nice quite case. I am really getting sick of all the whiring noises in my offices.
  • One words: Cats

    Their is nothing my cats like better than batting at dangling cables and chewing cables (they're brain damaged I swear sometimes) :) I have to have my case closed. And a couple of my friends have small children. They can't leave their case open either.
  • My understanding (several years out of date) was that lcd screens emit MORE radiation than the crt's do. But the pattern would be completely different, so that might spoof things up a bit. Remember that each of those pixels has its own controller, that gets scanned whenever the screen is refreshed. (Probably a smarter screen redraw could solve this... but only at the cost of being incompatible with crt's [Why do I only see changes on my screen?]).
  • i'd have to tend to agree..
    besides those old 386 cases were as tough and heavy as hell anyway, would most likely survive a bomb blast anyway...and for nuclear blast..well the operator would not be alive to use it anyway. Who even puts a case on their computer?

    Whoa, I got bad gramma.
  • I don't know about the TEMPEST protection, but I suspect that whoever build this just shielded everything and figured that it could defeat the government. I seem to remember reading (many years ago) an article on a device that could read the emissions of a CRT (at least the older kind) from a respectable distance. The fact that this guy has put an old-style monocrome, probably high-radiation type, on that makes me think that he doesn't know what he's doing. It'd be interesting to know if anyone has actually TESTED his system. As far as being able to take abuse goes, my old Xerox 8086 looks like it could handle more than that PC clone could. That thing's built like a tank and has survived:
    Being dropped from a height of 1.5 meters.
    a power surge which fried a power strip.
    being run with a tesla coil next to it. (for fun! Made it reset, but no other damage) :)

    Lets see this spy-tech computer do that!

    "Remember, it's not falling out the airplane that kills you. It's the sudden STOP!"

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam