Spying on someone through their keyboard?

It seems a couple of PhD students (who also happen to own their own computer security firm) have devised (discovered?) a method whereby an eavesdropper can obtain information typed into a keyboard via the electromagnetic signals given off by the keyboard.  Here is a link to their research website that includes two demonstration videos.  Here’s a link to the lab’s site.  This appears to be brand new research, i.e. the videos were just posted and I could not find a link to a paper anywhere.  It would be interesting to independently verify this.  In all honesty, all you’d need to do to at least buy the feasibility of this is to make sure that for each typed key you could detect a unique and non-random signal.

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2 Responses to “Spying on someone through their keyboard?”

  1. Kevin Hobbs Says:

    Looks like this is related to van Eck phreaking, the practice of using EM emissions from a CRT monitor to reconstruct the image, first demonstrated in 1985. I can’t find any examples of it being demonstrated in keyboards, but the United States and NATO already have the TEMPEST protocols in place for protecting against sniffing EM emissions. So, neat, but not world-changing.

  2. quantummoxie Says:

    Yeah, in fact I realized this morning that for years I’ve been running a lab in one of the introductory courses I frequently teach that asks students to qualitatively analyze a waveform generated by the EM emissions of a CRT.

    I think that perhaps the novel part of this keyboard stuff comes from what must be the extremely low strength of these fields. I mean, a CRT is one thing – it’s so big it hums. But these keyboard signals are pretty small EM fields, I would imagine.

    Nonetheless, I think this is why it is really more of a cryptanalysis problem than a physics problem. The physics is obvious. In fact even the cryptanalysis problem is simply plucking waveforms out of a background and there are already hundreds of methods out there to do just that.

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