Center for Information Technology Policy » Lest We Remember: Cold Boot Attacks on Encryption KeysThis paper provides real experimental data on an interesting attack on computer security. Rather than focusing on cracking keys or breaking cryptosystems, it looks at recovering data and keys directly from computer RAM. The authors show that a computer's RAM can be recovered with few errors several seconds after power has been removed, and that can be extended to several minutes if the memory is cooled well below zero.Squirting the chips with a can of compressed "air" can cool it enough to give you minutes of working time. Plenty of time to drop it in liquid nitrogen, which would give you over an hour with almost zero loss of information.The process for recovering the data from the memory chips is simple and requires no special equipment at all.The big threat here would be in situations where your computer is stolen in a sleep state. The password protection will make it very hard for an attacker to get access to the machine without a reboot, but the attacker has all the time in the world to cool the chips before pulling the power. From a behavior point of view, it says that you should take care to actually turn your computer OFF if it is going to be out of your physical possession, or if there is risk of it being seized without notice. Leaving your computer on and sleeping, but protected with a screen lock, is very risky against a aggressive and technical opponent.Thanks to David Kaufman for passing this along to me.