[ISN] Rampant cordless keyboard strikes again

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Jan 22 2003 - 03:46:06 PST

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    Aftenposten's Norwegian reporter
    Per Kristian Bjørkeng
    21 January 2003 
    Hewlett-Packard Norway will no longer guarantee their cordless 
    keyboards for security after yet another report that they transmit 
    keystrokes far afield. This time typing went astray in Oslo.
    Are Wormnes got a shock when his neighbor Ørjan Stokkeland rang him up 
    and asked him if he by any chance was writing a letter to telephone 
    company Telenor. 
    Wormnes can be thankful for a considerate neighbor - everything he was 
    typing on his computer could have been read.
    Last autumn a similar case made headlines. Two Stavanger men 
    discovered they were connected when a neighbor recognized a letter 
    mysteriously appearing on his machine to be emanating from his boss a 
    few doors away.
    Hewlett-Packard first claimed that this was a quirk, but replacement 
    equipment produced the same results, with information being directly 
    transmitted to the neighbor's computer, despite it being far out of 
    advertised range and with several walls between.
    The latest case took place in Bestum, Oslo, and took about a week to 
    clear up.
    Stokkeland began noticing strange characters appearing on his screen. 
    Occasionally a new program would open, and text would suddenly appear 
    in the address field of his browser while he was online. He couldn't 
    access his e-mail because the wrong characters kept appearing in the 
    password field.
    "I was a bit worried about a virus, I was sure I had one. I deleted 
    and reinstalled my firewall but it didn't help. I couldn't understand 
    what was going on," Stokkeland said.
    His neighbor Wormnes works from home, and spends a lot of his time 
    typing at his computer, causing Stokkeland almost constant problems. 
    "Finally I opened a Word document. There I saw the "virus" writing a 
    letter to Telenor complaining about a bill. When I saw the sender's 
    address I understood the connection. It's crazy. I could have just 
    left the document open and read everything he wrote," Stokkeland said.
    Wormnes rang up HP and was told that "this kind of thing could 
    happen". Hewlett-Packard advised him to speak with all neighbors 
    within a radius of 100 meters and switch his keyboard to a channel 
    they weren't using.
    "There must be 100 people in that area. It's impossible to talk with 
    all of them," Wormnes said, and that is not even the worst of it.
    "If a neighbor wants to listen in, there is no way to stop them. I got 
    a message from HP that another alternative was "not to write any 
    sensitive information". I think that's horrible. In practice the 
    product is useless. They sell it without any mention of the danger," 
    Wormnes said.
    HP apologized via press spokesman Joakim Larsen for the advice to 
    avoid writing sensitive information.
    "That just isn't adequate. It is also regrettable that he was told to 
    arrange channel selection with his neighbors. Those that have had this 
    problem have switched to our new model with 256 different channels and 
    higher security. Each time the computer is turned on the keyboard 
    chooses a new channel at random. Then it is not possible to monitor 
    someone's computer all the time," Larsen said.
    Larsen agreed that this did not prevent someone from intermittently 
    reading what was being written with the new keyboards.
    "You won't be 100 percent safe with the new model either. If you want 
    to be completely sure that no one can see what you are writing then 
    you should use a keyboard with a cord," Larsen said.
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
    C4I.org - Computer Security, & Intelligence - http://www.c4i.org
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