Your mechanical keyboard isn’t just annoying, it’s also a security risk

If noisy mechanical keyboards are the bane of your life at home or in the office, you might just have found the perfect excuse to stop your co-workers or loved one from smashing those keys so hard – it turns out the pirates can tell almost exactly what you write simply by listening to yourself type.

Keytap3 is software developed by Georgi Gerganov that can detect which keys are pressed simply by listening closely with a half-decent microphone, with Gerganov demonstrating this using a cellphone’s built-in microphone in an “acoustic listening” test on their YouTube channel.

This is not the first version developed by Gerganov, although it is by far the most intuitive, having already participated in projects that required the user to type in a series of predetermined words and phrases to “train” the software. of Gerganov to decipher the keys. selected.

Previous versions also required that the position of the microphone used to record the keystroke remain unchanged between testing and actual software execution, although these restrictions do not exist with Keytap3, which, as the name suggests, is the third version of the project.

Gerganov explains that it “works by grouping detected keystrokes based on their sound similarity, then using statistical information about the frequency of n-gram letters in the assumed language of the text (eg, English).”

We’ve tried using the Razer Huntsman v2 Analog which uses Razer’s own analog key switches, which gave quite mixed results, so it’s fair to say it’s still not 100% accurate yet. Yet most of what Keytap3 detected from our keystrokes was actually what we were writing, meaning it could detect important data such as passwords and sensitive information in private emails. . Scary stuff.

You can try this for yourself on the Keytap3 website by following the instructions below provided by Gerganov to better optimize the experience.

  • Be in a quiet room
  • Open this page on your phone and place it next at the keyboard of interest
  • Otherwise, open the page on your PC and place the microphone next to the keyboard
  • Note that the keyboard doesn’t even need to be plugged in during this test
  • press the initiate button below and allow microphone access to web page
  • Type some text in english on the keyboard using only lowercase letters and spaces
  • Try not to type faster than 250 CPM

Fortunately, this only works with mechanical keyboards and noisy keyboards, as the sound needs to be loud enough for a microphone to pick up. If you’re particularly worried, you can replace your current key switches with something a little quieter, like the Cherry MX Silent switches. Even if the risk of hackers eavesdropping on your conversations is low, said co-workers may be grateful to you for resting their ears.


Analysis: Not really a problem…yet

If this got on your nerves, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that while this is pretty scary, it’s unlikely hackers could break into your private space and place a microphone close enough to your keyboard without you noticing.

The bad news is that there are many other ways your keyboard could leak your private information. There are keystroke capture dongles that can be plugged into a keyboard’s USB cable, and wireless keyboards can be operated using hardware such as KeySweeper, a device that can record keyboards using the frequency 2.4 GHz when placed in the same room.

There are even complex systems that use lasers to detect vibrations or fluctuations in power lines to record what is written on a nearby keyboard.

Still, if you’re a fan of mechanical keyboards, don’t let any of that put you off, especially if you’re using one at home rather than in a public office environment. It is very unlikely that you will have to take extreme measures in your own home and just about everything comes with a security risk these days. Sometimes it’s better to enjoy the obnoxious tapping than to stay up at night worrying about hackers listening to your Facebook messages to your mom.

Via Gizmodo

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