How the FBI’s ‘heat film’ can ‘help solve the mystery of the Russian government’s cyberattack’
It’s the hottest topic in cybersecurity, but a controversial, high-tech heat-proof coating used by the FBI is being heralded as a breakthrough in the investigation into Russian interference in the US election.
The FBI’s controversial new heat-resistant coating, dubbed ‘heat-film’, has been hailed as a ‘game-changer’ by some cybersecurity experts.
The agency has said it plans to use it to build evidence to help bolster the investigation, as it does for other cases.
The heat-film is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, allowing it to be easily used to penetrate the insides of a hard drive, a computer, or a device’s firmware.
But in the heat-related investigation of the alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the FBI was trying to crack a case that relied heavily on the FBI using an “unusual heat-sensitive technique” to break into the DNC’s network.
The agent who infiltrated the DNC and obtained thousands of emails from its computers said he believed he had access to sensitive information on the Democratic Party and had stolen it in a scheme dubbed “PodestaLeaks”.
In a news conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that after months of testing and development, the heat sensor, known as a “heat-sensitive coat”, had been deployed on the DNC network in late July and had been “an amazing piece of equipment that we’re excited to deploy”.
“The FBI has used this technology to break in, and has recovered emails, and we’re now going to take it further,” he said.
“It’s been an amazing piece.
It’s been tested, it’s been installed on the RNC, and it’s going to be deployed on a range of other devices and it will be used in many different investigations.”
The heat sensor was the first piece of the puzzle to be tested by the CIA and FBI.
The technology is not a standard “hot-shot” device, like a laser, but is designed so that it can be mounted on a hard disk or computer and is designed for use in cold weather conditions, as well as heat-controlling temperatures.
The CIA said that the heat sensors “have a range from -10 degrees Celsius to -50 degrees Celsius and will work in a variety of environments.”
The FBI said the heat technology was designed for “the coldest temperatures and in the most challenging conditions”.
But some experts questioned whether the FBI should be using heat-based tools to investigate Russia’s alleged hacking.
“This is a completely unprecedented and dangerous deployment of heat-resistive coatings for the purpose of a national security investigation,” John Cavanagh, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Southern California’s Brennan Center for Justice, said.
The US Department of Homeland Security is conducting an internal review of the FBI and is also conducting its own investigation into the use of heat in the probe.
The Heat Project is also urging people to be wary of companies using heat in products that they claim can help them protect their systems from hackers.
The companies have a history of “unethical and deceptive marketing” that “can easily be found in any of the products that you buy online,” the company said.
The Heat Project said that it is “disgusted” by the use by the government of the heat tech, adding that it “represents a dangerous and unethical approach that has no basis in science, technology, engineering, or law”.
The company said the FBI has been using the technology for the past six months and has not “been using any other types of heat sensors”.
“We urge everyone to be very wary of any companies that are using heat devices in their products or in any other products they are using,” the Heat Project wrote.
“They are putting their customers at risk of death and serious injury.”