Keyboards unreliable for keeping… transmitting secrets

June 16th, 2009 by Olga Koksharova

Time for shoulder surfing is gone, today we have more sophisticated ways to track what you are typing on your keyboard. A series of appearing keyboard attacks yet again prove its incapability of keeping secretes. Let’s see what we have…

First, a newly released open source hardware-n-software sniffer for wireless keyboards – Keykeriki - the technology comes from Remote-Exploit.org and is meant for checking “the security level of their own keyboard transmissions, and/or demonstrate the sniffing attacks (for educational purpose only)”. Technically, Keykeriki breaks Microsoft XOR based encryption by analyzing electromagnetic signals produced by each keystroke of 27Mhz keyboards.
Video : http://vimeo.com/4990390
According to the latest news, 2.4Ghz keyboards come next under the examination of experts from Remote-Exploit.org and Logitech gets no rescue.
What’s more, Martin Vuagnoux and Sylvain Pasini from LASEC security and cryptography laboratory claim in their research that both wired and wireless keystrokes can be scanned through emanations of electromagnetic waves. Though their full report will be available only in August at USENIX Security Symposium 2009, still you can check their experiments filmed for public.
Video: http://vimeo.com/2007855
Though LACES experts reveal not much of their research, there is a great paper I suggest you to have a look at (btw. it seems they all have common roots) – presentation by Andrea Barisani and Daniele Bianco (¡2.65Mb!) that we heard at April’s DC4420 (we commented on it some time ago). (Hopefully, they won’t beat me for publicizing it here, I just googled it). At that time they used an electric signal oscillation registered on a common power socket or water-pipe (!) for tracking typed text.
And finally, one more not new but very charming spy method which involves electronic-acoustic reconnaissance, to put it simpler using laser microphone for registering sound vibration, it was also in that very April’s presentation by Andrea Brisani and Daniele Bianco - smart guys know how to get girls. ;)  
Know more curious sniffers? Share with us right here.

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2 Responses to “Keyboards unreliable for keeping… transmitting secrets”

  1. KARPOLAN says:

    Use notebooks or wired PS/2 keyboards :)

  2. Hmm…did you miss attack #2 in the paper I recommended? ;) It’s about Optical Sampling of Mechanical Energy against _laptop_ keyboards (starts at page 43). However, you are right, it seems this attack is theoretically possible but not so easy in praxis, as it depends on air condition…[un]fortunately Moscow air would be too thick for an inconspicuous laser spot.

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