Be Wary of the KeySniffers

Posted in Digital Data, laptop  by Carol
August 3rd, 2016

Cyber security company Bastille recently reported a vulnerability in inexpensive wireless keyboards that allows for hackers to steal private data. According to the experts, the vulnerability lets nomadic hackers use a new attack that the firm has called “KeySniffer,”

keysnifferKeySniffer makes it possible for hackers to eavesdrop on anything a victim types; cyber criminals can capture every keystroke typed from up to 250 feet away. The stolen data is then rendered in clear text, making it possible for hackers to search through it for credit card information, bank account usernames and passwords, answers to security questions, network access passwords, and basically any data typed into a document or email.

“Almost all access credentials have value to hackers,” explained vice president of marketing at Gurucul Tome Clare. “Hijacked or compromised access credentials to the corporate cloud are the keys to the kingdom.”

Bastille’s Mark Newlin explained the dangerous sophistication of the new hacking method:

KeySniffer demonstrates that as many as two third of the lower-cost wireless keyboards currently on the market implement no encryption whatsoever, leaving them vulnerable to passive keystroke sniffing and injection.”
keysniffThe keyboards in question are made by major companies including HP, Toshiba, Kensington, Insignia, Radio Shack, Anker, General Electric and EagleTec.

It may seem unlikely for hackers to be able to detect the presence of one of the cheap keyboards, especially if the keyboards have to be within 250 feet of the hacker. However, the vulnerable keyboards are easily located through the detection of the USB dongles that they use; these dongles transmit synchronization packets that make it possible for the keyboard to find them regardless of whether the keyboards are in use. If the dongle is plugged into the computer, the hacker can detect that the keyboard is within range.

Once a hacker has connected to the keyboard, he or she can not only steal data but also inject keystrokes or type remotely onto a vulnerable keyboard, potentially installing malware directly onto the device or stealing data.

keyWhile there has been a recent rise in these incidents, this method of hacking is by no means new. Wireless keyboard sniffing has been around since 2009, when researchers at Remote Exploit developed KeyKeriki and open sourced the project that allowed for users to decode Microsoft wireless keyboards.

Just two years ago, hacker Samy Kamkar developed KeySweeper, a proof-of concept hardware/software keystroke logger disguised as a USB wall charger that could attack any nearby Microsoft wireless keyboard.

Since keyboard sniffing has become a thing, the FBI has issued a warning about the devices that no one paid any attention to.

According to Newlin, high-end keyboards aren’t vulnerable to these hacking techniques because they “frequently use transceivers from Nordic Semiconductor which have built-in support for 128-bit AES encryption,” he explained. “Whether or not the encryption is used is up to each vendor, but in general [it is].”

Bluetooth keyboards aren’t susceptible either, as Bluetooth encrypts all data trnasmitted over the air.

“If security is a concern, make sure the keyboard you buy uses an encrypted connection,” explained Michael Jude, program manager at Stratecast.

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