Are Wireless Keyboards Safe?

Many people use wireless keyboards at home and on their business computer. They are convenient, not requiring you to mess with pulling against cables that aren’t quite long enough and are easy to slip into a drawer when you need desktop space.

They are not foolproof devices, of course, since you also need to keep the batteries replaced; and naturally that battery will die at the most inconvenient time possible. Analytics has received computer support calls where this has ended up being the root issue.

Like many wireless devices, wireless keyboards trade convenience for security; as recently highlighted by a new device that is available on the market if you know where to look.

Called KeySweeper, this device looks exactly like a cell phone power adapter that many of us leave plugged into the wall (it even has a USB port that allows you to charge your phone). While in the room this device is able to sniff up the wireless signals your keyboard sends to its receiver and record them. KeySweeper is even smart enough, that if it detects you’re typing certain strings of keys, such as, it will capture the next string of key inputs which will usually be your username and password for that bank and send them via text message to whichever nefarious person left this device plugged in near your computer.

If you believe you can simply unplug this device and be safe, unfortunately that is not the case. If you unplug KeySweeper it ‘looks’ as if it turns off by dimming the LED light but it will switch to battery power and continue to sniff and record the keyboard’s keystrokes.

Whether this device is near your computer or not can be very difficult to tell, even for professional onsite IT services. However, there is a bright spot of news for those of you who don’t want to give up your wireless keyboards.

KeySweeper only works for keyboards that operate in the 2.4GHz frequency, which is what the traditional wireless keyboards have long used. Bluetooth keyboards are immune, operating on a completely different wireless signal. Even some 2.4GHz keyboards will be safe, if you can locate specific models that embed encryption into their signal; though this can be a challenge to locate.

For better or worse, KeySweeper is another example of the concerns raised by use of wireless technology. Business IT Service companies such as Analytics recommend using wired connections whenever possible; and work with our clients to ensure that any wireless technology they use is of the highest security standard available.