What is the US NATO Tempest

Eavesdropping protection of secret classified information

TEMPEST deals with radiated electromagnetic waves of equipment (both radiated and conducted) and assesses the eavesdropping risk.

All electrical and electronic equipment generates electromagnetic radiation. In EMC, radiation from data processing equipment, such as Laptops or mobile phones contain sensitive information that can be easily intercepted.

A receiver can interpret these signals undetected without direct access to the original device.

Tempest level

Standard Full Intermediate Tactical
NATO SDIP-27 Level A Level B Level C
NATO Zones Zone 0 Zone 1 Zone 2

NATO Zoning

Zone definition

Defines an attenuation measurement method whereby individual rooms within a safety perimeter are classified as Zone 0, Zone 1, Zone 2, or Zone 3, and which requires a screening test standard for equipment handling secret data in these rooms.

Tempest Zonen

NATO Zone 1 1m

NATO Zone 2 20m

NATO Zone 3 <100m

Level A - NATO SDIP-27

(formerly AMSG 720B) and USA NSTISSAM Level I

Tempest level A is the strictest NATO standard and is therefore sometimes referred to as "FULL". Level A applies to environments and equipment where immediate eavesdropping can occur from the adjoining room (approximately 1 meter away). Therefore, this standard applies to equipment operated within NATO Zone 0.

Level B - NATO SDIP-27

(formerly AMSG 788A) and USA NSTISSAM Level II

Tempest Level B is the next highest NATO standard, also known as "IMMEDIATE". This standard applies to equipment that can not be heard from a distance of over 20 meters. This Tempest standard applies to equipment operating within NATO Zone 1. This standard protects equipment both from 20 meters of unobstructed distance and a comparable distance through walls and obstacles.

Level C - Nato SDIP-27

(formerly AMSG 784) and USA NSTISSAM Level III

Tempest Level C is also referred to as "TACTICAL". This standard applies to environments and equipment within NATO Zone 2 (where eavesdroppers are assumed to be at least 100 meters away). This standard protects equipment from 100 meters of unobstructed distance or a comparable distance through walls and obstacles.


The name “TEMPEST” is codename and acronym for a classified (secret) U.S. project which the government began using in the late 1960s and stands for Telecommunications Electronics Material Protected from Emanating Spurious Transmissions. The purpose of TEMPEST was not only exploiting/monitoring all forms of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) which were later deciphered in order to reconstruct intelligible data, but also guarding against such exploitation.

Hacking the Ether

Computing devices and other information systems are capable of leaking data in many peculiar ways.
As malicious entities increasingly target and attack core infrastructures, the IT security methods and policies for protecting highly sensitive and vulnerable locations have been evolving through the years.

Computer and Network Surveillance

Computer surveillance is the continuous effort to actively monitor the target device’s activity, key actions and all data being uploaded to the hard drives (internal, external or hidden), while network surveillance is the process of monitoring valuable data being transferred over local computer networks such as LAN or through the Internet.



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Shielding Standards

A shield puts an impedance (the effective resistance of an electric circuit or component to alternating current, arising from the combined effects of ohmic resistance and reactance) discontinuity in the path of a propagating radiated electromagnetic wave, reflecting it and/or absorbing it. This is conceptually very similar to the way in which filters work – they put an impedance discontinuity in the path of an unwanted conducted signal. The greater the impedance ratio, the greater the shield effectiveness (SE).


The information-security agencies of several NATO countries publish lists of accredited testing labs and of equipment that has passed these tests:

Systems at Risk

At present, the vast majority of industries, governments and people invariably use and heavily rely upon complex computer systems, all of which are susceptible to cyber-attacks of dissimilar severity.

Tempest for Eliza

TEMPEST isn’t just an esoteric field of espionage that only the upper echelon military branches can use. A rather frivolous program known as “TEMPEST for Eliza” can be used by almost anyone at the comfort of their homes. TEMPEST for Eliza is a quick Linux hack that plays music over the radio of your choosing by displaying alternating black and white pixels on your monitor at just the right frequency. This plays music for the feds pointing their TEMPEST-sniffer antenna at your monitor. If you’re not currently being spied on, you can play the music for yourself using a handheld AM radio.

Red/Black Separation

The red/black principle, also known as red/black architecture or red/black engineering, represents the meticulous separation and partitioning in cryptographic systems of signals that contain sensitive or classified plain-text information (red signals) from those that carry encrypted information, or cipher-text (black signals).
All TEMPEST standards require a strict "RED/BLACK separation or the installation of shielding agents with satisfactory SE, between all circuits and equipment which transmit classified and non-classified data.

Monitoring from a Distance

Monitoring computers or similar information systems from a distance is possible by detecting, capturing and deciphering the radiation emitted by the cathode-ray-tube (CRT) monitor.
This fairly unfamiliar form of long-distance computer surveillance is known as TEMPEST, and involves reading electromagnetic emanations from computing devices, which can be hundreds of meters away, and extracting information that is later deciphered in order to reconstruct intelligible data.

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Within the armed forces, Tempest certified equipment is necessary to ensure protection against espionage. Increasingly high levels of industrial espionage are making Tempest solutions relevant in the private sector as well.

Growing civilian demand shows that more and more companies are recognizing the threats and risks of the modern information society.



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