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Hardware

Encryption for Microsoft's wireless keyboards cracked

Security firm Dreamlab Technologies claims that it has cracked the encryption used by Microsoft's wireless keyboards and its base station. As a result, Dreamlab can now sniff all keystrokes sent from Microsoft's keyboards that communicate with each other on the 27 MHz band.

Security firm Dreamlab Technologies claims that it has cracked the encryption used by Microsoft's wireless keyboards and its base station. As a result, Dreamlab can now sniff all keystrokes sent from Microsoft's keyboards that communicate with each other on the 27 MHz band.

By using just a simple radio receiver, a sound card, and suitable software, Dreamlab Technologies was able to tap and decode the radio frequencies transmitted between the keyboard and PC/notebook computer. Keyboards that use Bluetooth for communication are not affected by this flaw.

According to heise Security:

Max Moser and Philipp Schrodel say that decryption was very easy because the devices use a simple XOR mechanism for encryption and the keys are only one byte long. They claim that even a PDA with a slow ARM-CPU would have derived the combination quickly. Aside from not using such keyboards, there is no workaround. Microsoft has yet to react to the Swiss firm's announcement.

You can read the press release (pdf) or the whitepaper (pdf) for more information about the exploit.

The eavesdropping was done at a distance of 10m using standard equipment, which isn't so bad. The concern is that with appropriate technical equipment, larger distances are possible.

Are you using a Microsoft wireless (RF) keyboard at the moment? Will this news prompt you to stop using it?

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About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

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