Encryption for Microsoft’s wireless keyboards hacked
Swiss IT security company Dreamlab Technologies AG has shown that it is possible to capture and decrypt keystrokes, meaning that user names, passwords, bank details
or confidential correspondence can be very easily eavesdropped. Although the trend in wireless communication in peripheral devices such as keyboards and mice is moving
towards Bluetooth, market leaders such as Logitech and Microsoft rely on cost-efficient, tried-and-tested 27 MHz radio technology. Using just a simple radio receiver, a soundcard and suitable software, Dreamlab Technologies has managed to tap and decode the radio frequencies transmitted between the keyboard and PC/notebook computer. Although manufacturers of wireless keyboards partially prevent data from being tapped by using cryptography, unfortunately the encryption is weak and thus does not offer real protection. Max Moser from Dreamlab Technologies states: “Wireless communication is only as secure as the encryption technology used. Due to its nature, it can be tapped with little effort.”
Dreamlab Technologies tested and successfully cracked the encryption key used within Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 1000/2000 keyboards. As most products in Microsoft’s Wireless Desktop range are based on the same technology, Dreamlab Technologies does not consider them to be secure either. During the test, Max Moser and Phillipp Schrödel of Dreamlab Technologies succeeded in eavesdropping traffic from a distance of up to ten meters using a simple radio receiver. With the appropriate technical equipment, larger distances are possible.