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Security Cellphones Handhelds Privacy

How Your Smartphone Can Spy On What You Type 77 77

mikejuk writes "We all do it — place our phones down on the desk next to the keyboard. This might not be such a good idea if you want to keep your work to yourself. A team of researchers from MIT and the Georgia Institute of Technology have provided proof of concept for logging keystrokes using nothing but the sensors inside a smartphone — an iPhone 4 to be precise, as the iPhone 3GS wasn't up to it. A pair of neural networks were trained to recognize which keys were being pressed just based on the vibration — and it was remarkably good at it for such a small device. There have been systems that read the keys by listening but this is the first system that can hide in mobile phone malware."
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How Your Smartphone Can Spy On What You Type

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  • Re:Reminds me... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moteyalpha (1228680) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @09:02PM (#44988571) Homepage Journal

    . . . of the little scheme someone I knew cooked up to read data transmissions from watching the lights flash on a Hayes modem - from a distance, of course :) Not that I would ever do anything spurious like that, tho.

    The vibration trick seems a bit of a stretch to be useful, but it does fall into a class of things like you said. There are so many holes in the technology created by accident or on purpose that it is a wonder that anything is secure. I was at a COMDEX once a long time ago and was chatting with an engineer ( a friend ) that worked for a modem company about my companies dial up customer service sytem and complaining that it hung up on customers some times. He asked me for my dial up number and I provided it. I assumed he was going to see if it hung up on him. He proceeded to enter a long string of characters and took control of our modem, went into configuration and changed a parameter that set a hang up delay on inactivity. It fixed the problem, but that was creepy. Obviously that was long ago before the internet, but I have never trusted any system since then unless it was open source and open hardware, and even then I am not sure because I have seen spooks at the chip fab and I am sure they weren't there to get coffee.
    I watched some videos from DEFCON and became even more certain that we live in a silicon dioxide house and it is subject to fracture on impact, so it would be advisable to avoid conflict with projectiles.

  • MI5 episode (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @10:15PM (#44988781) Homepage Journal

    There was an episode of MI5 [imdb.com] (aired as "Spooks" in the UK) that had this many years ago.

    They gave a foreign agent a document to type, and had an eavesdropping device in his office. By recording the keyclicks of the known document, they were able to train the system to decode keyclicks for subsequent documents.

    It didn't seem farfetched at the time, it doesn't seem farfetched today.

  • Re:MI5 episode (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 30, 2013 @04:20AM (#44990147)

    I think Viktor Suvorov mentions in one of his books how spies used to write with a pencil, rather than use a typewriter, because of the danger of decoding a text from listening to the typing. That was in the time when people still used typewriters. So, yes, this stuff does pre-date smartphones.

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