Wi-Fi-blocking paint adds security to decor

A US firm is selling paint that it says can secure computer networks. EMSEC Technologies is selling $6 per-square-foot paint which it says creates electromagnetic shielding that prevents hackers from attacking wireless networks.

Tested in military applications, the technology is now available to the civilian market and would be useful for anyone who needs to make sure a data room is completely secure, said the company's president and chief technology officer Wayne Legrande. Legrande was talking to weekly technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio.

"The material is probably some of the most advanced technology for protecting information from going out through the walls," said Legrande. "If there was somebody trying to bug your offices, your corporate boardrooms, that type of thing it protects from things coming in, trying to harm your systems, maybe someone trying to blast RF [radio frequency] radiation in."

The paint would not be suitable as a protection for an entire office, since it blocks most radio signals. Mobile phones and BlackBerrys, for example, would not be able to receive or send signals.

But for securing parts within an office from intrusion or to stop signals being sent out from those places, the system would work, says Legrande.

A similar effect would be obtained by coating the room in tin foil, said Legrande, but that would be harder to fit and would need to be pasted on to every surface without a single tear. "A decorator that is properly trained could do the installations," he said.

The paint reduces radio signals by 60 decibels, which is almost to zero in almost all cases. The technology was developed at first in order to stop signals leaking from ordinary data cables, computer screens and touchtone keypads.

Use of the paint can ensure that anyone who wants to steal your data has to break through physical security to get it. "You have the ability to make whoever is trying to obtain your information have to come up very, very close to your facility. You're talking sometimes within the building," said Legrande.

He did say, though, that users would have to remember to paint the floors and ceilings as well as the walls. "What people don't understand is that if you're in a multi-storey building, your computer systems are on the second floor and you've got someone above you who wants your information, they set up an antenna, a laptop computer and they basically can get it right through the floors," he said.