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SAN FRANCISCO - Want to break into a computer's encrypted hard drive? Just blast the machine's memory chip with a burst of cold air.
That's the conclusion of new research out of Princeton University demonstrating a novel, low-tech way hackers can access even the most well-protected computers, provided they have physical access to the machines.
The Princeton report shows how encryption, long considered a vital shield against hacker attacks, can be defeated by manipulating the way memory chips work. The researchers say the ease of their attack raises fears about the security of laptop computers increasingly used to store sensitive information, from personal banking data, to company trade secrets, to national security documents.