Feeds

Microsoft wireless keyboards crypto cracked

Tapping up

Boost IT visibility and business value

Security researchers have cracked the rudimentary encryption used in a range of popular wireless keyboards.

Bluetooth is increasingly becoming the de-facto standard for wireless communication in peripheral devices and is reckoned to be secure. But some manufacturers such as Logitech and Microsoft rely on 27 MHz radio technology which, it transpires, is anything but secure.

Using nothing more than a simple radio receiver, a soundcard and suitable software, Swiss security firm Dreamlab Technologies managed to capture and decode the radio communications between a keyboard and a PC. The attack opens the way up to all sorts of mischief including keystroke logging to capture login credentials to online banking sites or email accounts.

Dreamlab cracked the encryption key used within Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 1000 and 2000 keyboards. As most products in Microsoft's wireless range are based on the same technology other products are likely to be insecure. 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. More sensitive receivers may make it possible to capture keystrokes over larger distances.

Sniffing traffic between wireless keyboards and their base stations was possible because of the weak encryption used, as explained in a white paper from Dreamlab:

To our surprise, only the actual keystroke data seems to be encrypted. The Metaflags and identifier bits aren't encrypted or obfuscated. The one byte USB Hid code is encrypted using a simple XOR mechanism with a single byte of random data generated during the association procedure.

This means that there are only 256 different key values possible per keyboard and receiver pair. We did not notice any automated key change interval and therefore assume that the encryption key stays the same until the user reassociates the keyboard. 256 key combination can be brute forced even with very slow computers today. We did not analyze the quality of the random number so far because it was not needed to successfully break the encryption.

"Wireless communication is only as secure as the encryption technology used. Due to its nature, it can be tapped with little effort," said Dreamlab's Max Moser.

Dreamlab has reported the security loophole to Microsoft. The security researchers are holding off releasing details on exactly how the hack was pulled off pending the release of a fix, which it reckons may be a difficult and drawn-out process. The security researchers have however published a video of the attack here. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
USA to insist on pre-flight mobe power probe
Prove it works or it can't come aboard flights to USA
Computing student jailed after failing to hand over crypto keys
Sledgehammer once again used to crack a nut
Brit celebs' homes VANISH from Google's Street View
Tony Blair's digs now a Tone-y Blur
Doctor Who season eight scripts leak online
BBC asks fans to EXTERMINATE copies before they materialise
Insecure AVG search tool shoved down users' throats, says US CERT
Sneaky 'foistware' downloads install things you never asked for
New NSA boss plays down impact of Snowden leaks
You have not heard me say 'OMG, the sky is falling'
'I don't want to go on the cart' ... OpenSSL revived with survival roadmap
Heartbleed-battered crypto library reveals long path back to health
MONSTER COOKIES can nom nom nom ALL THE BLOGS
Blog networks can be force-fed more than they can chew
prev story

Whitepapers

How modern custom applications can spur business growth.
In this whitepaper learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem
Only the Power of One delivers leading infrastructure convergence, availability and scalability with federation, and agility through data center automation.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization
Virtualization continues to be one of the most effective ways to consolidate, reduce cost, and make data centers more efficient.
Build a Business Case: Developing Custom Apps
In this whitepaper learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.