[ISN] Keyboards can be snooped remotely

From: InfoSec News <alerts_at_private>
Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2008 05:03:45 -0500 (CDT)

[New research?!? - WK]

By Jeremy Kirk
IDG news service
21 October 2008

Computer keystrokes can be snooped from afar by detecting the slight 
electromagnetic radiation emitted when a key is pressed, according to 
new research [1]. 

Other security experts have theorised keyboards were vulnerable to such 
detection, wrote Sylvain Pasini and Martin Vuagnoux, both doctorate 
students with the Security and Cryptography Laboratory at the Ecole 
Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

But Vuagnoux and Pasini believe theirs is the first set of experiments 
showing such spying is feasible. They blamed cost pressures on keyboard 
manufacturers for not making keyboards more snoop proof.

Keyboards "are not safe to transmit sensitive information," they wrote 
in an entry on the school's website. "No doubt that our attacks can be 
significantly improved since we used relatively inexpensive 

The researchers tested 11 different wired keyboard models produced 
between 2001 and 2008, including some with USB connectors and keyboards 
embedded in laptops. All were vulnerable to one of four surveillance 

Two videos posted show two different experiments, both of which 
accurately picked up the typed text.

The first video shows a white Logitech keyboard with a PS/2 connector 
that was attached to a laptop for power. It was monitored with a simple 
1-metre wire cable about a metre away. After typing "trust no one" on 
the keyboard, the same phrase is returned on the researchers' monitoring 

In a second video, a larger antenna picked up keystrokes through an 
office wall. All told, various experiments shows they could monitor 
keystrokes from as far as 20 metres away.

Vuagnoux and Pasini have written a paper that's currently in peer review 
detailing the technique. It will be released soon at an upcoming 
conference, they wrote.

Efforts to reach Vuagnoux and Pasini were unsuccessful.

[1] http://lasecwww.epfl.ch/keyboard/

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Received on Wed Oct 22 2008 - 03:03:45 PDT

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