OpticSpy

A tool to explore optical data transmissions and covert channels

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Blinkenlights are cool, but blinkenlights that send secret messages in a way undetectable to the human eye are even cooler. OpticSpy is an open source hardware module for exploring and experimenting with optical data transmissions. It captures, amplifies, and converts an optical signal into digital form that can be analyzed or decoded with a computer.

The project is based on Maxim Integrated’s AN1117: Small Photodiode Receiver Handles Fiber-Optic Data Rates to 800kbps application note. OpticSpy adds potentiometers for fine-tuning of a particular target signal, an on-board USB-to-serial interface for easy connection to a host computer, status indicator LEDs, and test points for observing each stage of signal processing. It has been successfully tested with both visible and near infrared light sources.

Joe Grand has been poking around with optical covert channels for about a year and thought that OpticSpy could help inspire others to discover or create their own sneaky communications interfaces.

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