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Your Keystrokes May Be Stolen Through WiFi

By September 16, 2016May 25th, 2021Blog, Cybersecurity

yourxkeystrokesThere have been papers written and demonstrations conducted in recent months to show how it’s possible to wirelessly log your keystrokes. All of those demonstrations have relied upon specialized gear you can make using off-the-shelf components, but given that requirement, it limits the pool of hackers with the technical skills to pull it off.

Recently, however, a new method has been devised and demonstrated by a joint research effort that combined the talents of team members from Michigan State University and Nanjing University in China. Their new method does not require the hacker to create anything new or exotic, but rather, to simply gain control over a router.

Wireless routers track and monitor the signals on your network, including signals sent by your wireless peripherals. If you’re using a wireless keyboard, each time you press a key, it sends a signal of a slightly different wavelength to the CPU, which translates that signal, and displays the appropriate letter or symbol on your screen.

The research team was able to reverse engineer an algorithm that could identify which keystrokes generated what frequencies, and use it to provide a map of every keystroke entered. Their first try yielded a result of better than 96% accuracy. No doubt, with additional refinement, this percentage could be pushed even closer to 100% than it already is.

The only real downside of their method is the fact that the range is fairly limited. If the router is more than 12 to 15 feet from the keyboard in question, accuracy falls off markedly, but this could also change with further refinement, and as routers themselves become more powerful and robust.

The bottom line is that researchers have now demonstrated a method of keystroke capturing which relies on traditional hacking targets (routers), and requires no specialized, custom-built equipment to pull off. Not a month goes by that some new, innovative hacking technique is brought to light, and a new threat is found to guard against. This is yet another of those.

Jason Manteiga

Jason J. Manteiga, Vice President of Olmec Systems, has been part of the company for over the past 20 years. He believes that having a great work environment and supportive team, is the ultimate key to success. Since being in the IT realm for over 25 years, Jason, along with Olmec Systems, has been on the Inc. 5000 “List of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies” and Channel Futures MSP 501 “Top Managed Service Providers in North America,” along with other awards and nominations. Jason earned his Bachelor Degree in Information Systems from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He also holds certifications in Microsoft MCSE, VMWare VCP, and Cisco CCNA. In his spare time, Jason is a contributor for The Center for Social & Legal Research (Privacy Exchange) and a member of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce. His hobbies include cycling and kayaking. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife, two daughters and son.