The question is mainly stated in the title. I was wondering what kind of attacks can be launched on such a setup, where someone has access to a running OS with locked screen (needs password for the user to enter). One possibility I can think of is cold boot attack. What other types of attack vectors exist?

Clarification : By OS I mean every software that the computer runs.

  • First, there is no such thing as an OS with a GUI implemented correctly, second is a correctly implemented secure boot (which may or may not exist) part of the question? Aug 12, 2022 at 14:01
  • I added clarification.
    – tur11ng
    Aug 12, 2022 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


Attack vectors to consider against a computer with a locked screen, the example you gave about the cold boot attack is one that would require physical access.

  • 0day exploits/exploits for default enabled services or additional software you've installed on the operating system you're running, for example SMB for Windows, SSH for some Linux distributions or an Nginx web server for both, this attack could be achieved by having network connectivity with the machine in question.
  • Weak passwords for authentication protocols like RDP, SMB or SSH can be used to compromise the machine if they've been setup.
  • Access control to the computer in question, you can't perform a physical attack like a cold boot attack, if you can't get to it?

Full disk encryption protects from forensic analysis, a cold boot attack can dump the memory of the operating system which can be analysed by memory forensic tools like volatility, which can be used to extract FDE encryption keys.

  • I think your last sentence is incorrect. It would be very dumb for cryptographers that designed the FDE mechanism to store the password as plaintext. It is obvious that there is some kind of salt + hash, maybe something stronger.
    – tur11ng
    Aug 12, 2022 at 14:39
  • I added some clarification too.
    – tur11ng
    Aug 12, 2022 at 14:41
  • 3
    He's not talking about dumping a password, he's talking about dumping a cryptographic key which has to be in memory save decryption in dedicated hardware. Aug 12, 2022 at 14:51

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