Near-ultrasonic covert channels using software-defined radio techniques

R. Sherry*, E. Bayne, D. McLuskie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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Traditional cybersecurity practices rely on computers only communicating through well-defined expected channels. If malware was developed to use covert channels, such as one created using ultrasonic sound, then this could bypass certain security measures found in computer networks. This paper aims to demonstrate the viability of acoustic covert channels by creating a low-bandwidth ultrasonic frequency channel utilising software-defined radio (SDR) techniques. Previous work was evaluated to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their implementations. Software-defined radio techniques were then applied to improve the performance and reliability of the acoustic covert channel. The proposed implementation was then evaluated over a range of hardware and compared to previous implantations based on the attributes of their throughput, range, and reliability. The outcome of this research was an ultrasonic covert channel implemented in GNU Radio. The proposed implementation was found to provide 47% higher throughput than previous work while using less signal bandwidth. Utilising software-defined radio techniques improves the performance of the acoustic covert channels over previous implementations. It is expected that this technique would be effective in an office environment, but less effective in high security or server environments due to the lack of audio equipment available in these spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the International Conference on Cybersecurity, Situational Awareness and Social Media
Subtitle of host publicationCyber Science 2022; 20-21 June; Wales
EditorsCyril Onwubiko, Pierangelo Rosati, Aunshul Rege, Arnau Erola, Xavier Bellekens, Hanan Hindy, Martin Gilje Jaatun
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9789811964145
ISBN (Print)9789811964138
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2023
EventInternational Conference on Cybersecurity, Situational Awareness and Social Media: Ethical and Responsible use of Artificial Intelligence - Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Jun 202221 Jun 2022

Publication series

NameSpringer Proceedings in Complexity
ISSN (Print)2213-8684
ISSN (Electronic)2213-8692


ConferenceInternational Conference on Cybersecurity, Situational Awareness and Social Media
Abbreviated titleCyber Science 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Ultrasonic data transfer
  • Covert channel
  • Software-defined radio
  • SDR
  • GNU radio


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