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Your very keyboard clicks and other keyboard sounds can give away what you are typing. That is the unsettling conclusion made by researchers at UC Berkeley this week, who announced that keyclicks and other keyboard sounds can be acoustically spied on and used to determine what is being typed.
Explains Doug Tygar, a UC Berkeley Computer Science Professor involved with the study, “It’s a form of acoustical spying that should raise red flags among computer security and privacy experts.”
The way that it works is horribly simple. You record or otherwise capture keyboard sounds, and feed them into a computer. That’s what the researchers did, taking snippets of ten minutes of audio of people typing away, and feeding the audio into a computer program which detected the slight differences between each keystroke. Once you know the language in which the typist is typing, the differences in key stroke become predictable. Couple that with knowing what the most common letters and combinations of letters in a given language are, and it’s pretty easy for a computer to turn those audible key clicks into the actual letters struck.
The implications are pretty frightening. Says Tygar, “If we were able to figure this out, it’s likely that people with less honorable intentions can – and have – as well.”
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