Newly discovered ‘key sniffing’ hack could compromise keyboards from up to 250 feet away

Just months after uncovering MouseJack, Atlanta-based cybersecurity company Bastille recently exposed vulnerabilities that could leave consumers open to attack when using a low-cost wireless keyboard. Hackers are reportedly utilizing a set of security vulnerabilities the company calls “KeySniffer,” which can enable them to remotely capture all keystrokes from up to 250 feet away. Affected wireless keyboard manufacturers include HP, Toshiba, Kensington, Insignia, Radio Shack, Anker, General Electric, and EagleTec (all models listed here).

“When we purchase a wireless keyboard we reasonably expect that the manufacturer has designed and built security into the core of the product,” said Bastille Research Team member Marc Newlin, responsible for the KeySniffer discovery. “Unfortunately, we tested keyboards from 12 manufacturers and were disappointed to find that eight manufacturers (two-thirds) were susceptible to the KeySniffer hack.”

The problem here is that attackers could potentially hack victims in numerous ways thanks to what their prey actually types. That includes credit card numbers and their CVV codes, usernames and passwords to bank accounts, passwords to networks, answers to security questions, company trade secrets, machine login credentials, and so much more.

But the hack doesn’t stop there. Attackers can inject their own malicious keystroke commands too, enabling them to install malware, grab sensitive data, or perform other malicious acts as if they had actual physical access to the desktop or laptop.

The problem resides with wireless keyboards that operate in the 2.4GHz ISM band using GFSK modulation (generally, in the form of a USB dongle), and not models relying on Bluetooth. These units are using unencrypted radio communication protocols to transmit keystrokes to the paired USB dongle plugged into a desktop or laptop. In turn, these keystrokes can be accessed using equipment and software costing less than $100.

In a video demonstration here, Newlin is able to scan the office for a vulnerable keyboard, and grab everything his associate enters when booking a hotel reservation.

“Previously demonstrated vulnerabilities affecting wireless keyboards required the attacker to first observe radio packets transmitted when the victim typed on their keyboard,” the firm said in a list of technical details. “The keyboards vulnerable to KeySniffer use USB dongles which continuously transmit radio packets at regular intervals, enabling an attacker to quickly survey an environment such as a room, building, or public space for vulnerable devices regardless of the victim’s presence. This means an attacker can find a vulnerable keyboard whether a user is at the keyboard and typing or not, and set up to capture information when the user starts typing.”

As the product list linked above points out, not all wireless keyboards suffer the KeySniffer vulnerabilities. Many high-end units encrypt keystroke data before sending the information to the USB dongle. In turn, that dongle has the encryption key, securing the user’s keystrokes as they pass from the peripheral to the computing device. Hackers can’t get that information unless they obtain the encryption key.

In light of the KeySniffer exposure, General Electric supplied a response, saying that Jasco Products Company actually builds the keyboards suffering the KeySniffer problem, and merely slaps on the GE logo. The company is aware of the problem and will work directly with customers. Meanwhile, Kensington supplied a response as well, reporting that it released a firmware update that includes AES encryption to close any security holes.


Latest SMS breach could allow hackers access to your online accounts

A new security breach that exposed more than 26 million text messages could be a huge nightmare for users relying on two-factor authentication. Many of the SMS on the database contained security codes and account reset links.

Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.

The MacBook is smaller, the MacBook Air is faster, but which is better?

This year, Apple's MacBook Air got a powerful internal upgrade, but the redesign makes it slimmer and lighter. So should you get the MacBook Air over the MacBook? We'll compare both notebook's major features and help you decide.
Home Theater

What is MHL, exactly, and how does it work with your TV?

There are more ways to mirror your smartphone or tablet to your TV than you might think. Check out our rundown of MHL for everything you need to know about the wired protocol and its myriad uses.

Turn your iPad into a display for your new Mac Mini with this workaround

The folks at Luna Display have figured out a workaround which lets you get the best of both worlds and use Wi-Fi and an adapter in order to turn your iPad into a display for the 2018 Mac Mini.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mail client goes freemium with the introduction of ads

Microsoft Windows Insiders are finding a nasty surprise inside the Mail app on the latest Windows 10 preview build in the form of banner ads. These ads will appear in the Mail app regardless of the webmail service you use.

Apple discontinues AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule as it exits Wi-Fi router business

Apple is now officially no longer in the router business. The company had already stopped selling the AirPort Express, and now its retail stores and websites have stopped offering the AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule.

All the best Apple MacBook deals for Black Friday 2018

Shoppers looking for a new Apple laptop could find huge savings on a new MacBook come Black Friday. Retailers are offering discounts as much as $650 on select MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models this holiday season.

Secure your Excel documents with a password by following these quick steps

Excel documents are used by people and businesses all over the world. Given how often they contain sensitive information, it makes sense to keep them from the wrong eyes. Thankfully, it's easy to secure them with a password.

PDF to JPG conversion is quick and easy using these simple methods

Converting file formats can be an absolute pain, but it doesn't have to be. We've put together a comprehensive guide on how to convert a PDF to JPG, no matter which operating system you're running.

Crypto hangover could take blame for Nvidia’s potential GeForce RTX 2060 delay

Nvidia's delay in announcing a ship date for its GeForce RTX 2060 GPU could be due to a burst in the cryptocurrency mining bubble. Executives blamed the crypto hangover for an oversupply of inventory on existing GTX 1060 cards,

Save $900 on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and more with Lenovo’s Cyber Monday sales

In the latest set of holiday sales, Lenovo is heavily discounting its fifth-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon and other popular Windows laptops and 2-in-1s for the holiday shopping season.

Want to make one hard drive act like two? Here's how to partition in Windows

If you don't want all of your files stored in one place but only have one drive to work with, partitioning is your best way forward. Here's how to partition a hard drive in Windows 10, step by step.

Go hands-free in Windows 10 with speech-to-text support

Looking for the dictation, speech-to-text, and voice control options in Windows 10? Here's how to set up speech-to-text in Windows 10 and use it to go hands-free in a variety of different tasks and applications within Windows.