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21 October 2008, 17:15

Scientists spy out keyboard input from a distance of 20 metres

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Two scientists at the Swiss School of Computer and Communication Sciences (I&C)'s Security and Cryptography Laboratory (LASEC) claim to be able to eavesdrop on keypresses remotely. Martin Vuagnoux and Sylvain Pasini have experimented with reading the electromagnetic radiation from keyboard input and released videos about their project, claiming to be able to read the signals and decode the keypresses.

In their experiments they appear to have managed to spy out sentences typed on a keyboard up to 20 metres away with relatively little technical effort. There are said to be four different ways of reconstructing the data. All of the eleven (USB, PS/2) keyboards tested were vulnerable in at least one of the ways. However, the experiments were carried out in ideal conditions with a minimum amount of interference. The scientists only plan to reveal further details in the coming few weeks.

At the end of last year, security experts Max Moser and Philipp Schrödel demonstrated how to spy out the communication between wireless Microsoft keyboards and base stations. In this experiment, decryption was very easy because the devices use an XOR mechanism and a one-byte key.

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