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Be Careful How Loudly You Type -

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posted on Sep, 17 2005 @ 02:26 PM

Computer scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have uncovered a new security Security, strength, a lower TCO: find out about all the advantages of IBM Middleware on Linux. threat: a simple audio recording of keyboard clicks could betray the text you just entered, from passwords to secret love notes.

They are calling it "acoustical spying." Researchers were able to take several 10-minute sound recordings of users typing at a keyboard, feed the audio into a computer, and use an algorithm to recover up to 96 percent of the characters entered.

"It's a form of acoustical spying that should raise red flags among computer security and privacy Latest News about privacy experts," said Doug Tygar, UC Berkeley professor of computer science and information management Discover a better way to manage the business of IT with IBM Tivoli solutions. and principal investigator of the study. "If we were able to figure this out, it's likely that people with less honorable intentions can -- or have -- as well."

Distinct Sounds

What makes the technique feasible is that each keystroke makes a relatively distinct sound, however subtle, when hit. Typical users type about 300 characters per minute, leaving enough time for a computer to isolate the sounds of individual keystrokes and categorize the letters based upon the statistical characteristics of English text. For example, the letters "th" will occur together more frequently than "tj," and the word "yet" is far more common than "yrg."

"Using statistical learning theory, the computer can categorize the sounds of each key as it's struck and develop a good first guess with an accuracy of 60 percent for characters, and 20 percent for words," said Li Zhuang, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. student in computer science and lead author of the study. "We then use spelling and grammar checks to refine the results, which increased the character accuracy to 70 percent and the word accuracy to 50 percent. The text is somewhat readable at this point."

Eliminating Errors

But that's not all. The recording is then played back repeatedly in a feedback loop to "train" the computer to increase its accuracy until no significant improvement is seen. In the UC Berkeley experiments, three feedback cycles were often enough to obtain recovery rates of 88 percent for words and 96 percent for characters.

Once the system is trained, recovering the text became more straightforward, even if the text was a password and not an English word. After just 20 attempts, the researchers were able to retrieve 90 percent of five-character passwords, 77 percent of eight-character passwords and 69 percent of 10-character passwords.

There are limitations to the technique, however. The researchers pointed out that they did not use the Shift, Control, Backspace or Caps Lock keys for their experiments, but describe approaches for training a program to account for those keystrokes as well. The ability to account for use of a computer mouse will be more challenging, the researchers said.

Nevertheless, the findings highlight a security hole that could be exploited and should be investigated, the researchers said. "The message from this study is that there is no easy escape from this acoustic snooping," said Tygar. "The type of keyboard you use doesn't matter, your typing proficiency doesn't matter and the background noise can be overcome."


Wow! This just blows my mind. As I type this now, I never noticed it before, but my keys do sound differently! Maybe people could transmit the sounds through a cell phone?

posted on Sep, 17 2005 @ 02:32 PM
Reminds me of the days of tone generators for phone "hacking"

Or whistling into the phone instead of dialing!


posted on Sep, 18 2005 @ 12:21 AM
I have to say, that is one of the worst (privacy robbing wise) software inventions ever, like there were not enough ways to spy on people and break into there privacy already, I diaprove of this technology.

posted on Sep, 18 2005 @ 02:12 AM
Well is not like its easy to accomplish, or that you cant prevent it.

Not a worry at all.

posted on Sep, 18 2005 @ 03:33 PM
Interesting. Although considering that probably most of what people type these days goes out over the Internet, its far more straightforward and automated to just monitor people that way... tap everyone at the ISP level and just automatically save every URL they go to and save every HTTP POST that they send, and save all the content sent via an easily-detectable SMTP protocol (to collect email). Go back and use data mining techniques at their leisure to find evidence against whoever they want to go after.

I just assume (perhaps incorrectly) that even what I type now is being saved in some giant NSA database. Hi feds, how ya doing! Hope you appreciate that I paid all my taxes this year... I'm paying your salaries so I hope you appreciate it!

Listening for keystrokes requires having a whole team of guys in a van parked outside your place all day with laser microphones aimed at the glass for the room that you're in. WAY too labor intensive. Not much to worry about for pretty much 100% of us.

posted on Sep, 18 2005 @ 04:54 PM
Dats y typin in codes like g2g or l8tr would piss of the govt. Cause teh guyz listenin wuld b like wtf r dey typin neways

Sorry I juste felt that I should type like that. I know a lot of people that the technique of listening to the keys wouldn't help very much since they barely use the Englsih some times it seems

posted on Sep, 21 2005 @ 08:53 PM
I highly doubt that they would be able to distinguish what key makes what sound. Its different with different keyboards and the condition the keyboards are in.

posted on Sep, 21 2005 @ 09:20 PM

Originally posted by ketoes13
I highly doubt that they would be able to distinguish what key makes what sound. Its different with different keyboards and the condition the keyboards are in.

Also, seeing as it works on statistical analysis of keystrokes, like "th" being together, what if you type as quickly as I do?

In tapping away furiously on that last paragraph, I made at least 15 mistakes and had to track back to correct them. I seem to typ dyslexically and have to go back and swap letters around as they are in the wrong order. My speed is pretty good..i just type meaningless rubbish

posted on Sep, 21 2005 @ 10:48 PM
This is no big deal. They can read what is on your screen if they want to badly enough. Ever hear of van eck phreaking?

Definition: van eck phreaking

Listen, there is no privacy anymore. The only way to stay private is to not be important enough for someone to want to look at your stuff. Pretty sad, but this is the age we live in.

posted on Sep, 22 2005 @ 07:09 AM
if the gov. is monitering what I type by sound, allow them to moniter this. @$$HOLES!!!!!

posted on Sep, 22 2005 @ 07:13 AM
I hate the gov. any one else here hate bush.

[edit on 22-9-2005 by ketoes13]

posted on Sep, 22 2005 @ 07:35 AM
Turn the keyboard at a different angle for every paragraph or if its a password just turn the keyboard on every letter, type a bit slower and lighter or even upside down. No probs

Its not a massive security flaw if you know how to decieve it.

And BTW its not difficult to read what your saying through e-mail, phone, fax, video phone, text messages etc. etc. there is a special system just for this called Echelon.


posted on Sep, 23 2005 @ 12:17 AM
Switch the keypad buttons around, scratch out the original letters and replace them with the new ones. Or you could shave off parts of the buttons themselves to alter the sound. It isn't too hard to get around this. There are many possiblities out there.

How many keyboards can this computer run off? Just dust off your old apple keyboards if you feel threatened.

posted on Sep, 23 2005 @ 06:50 AM
If the government really wanted to see what we were up to, they could just hack your computers. lol

posted on Sep, 25 2005 @ 12:32 PM
Like many here have said already, it's so easy to get around. Why put so much research into such a pointless endeavour! Aren't there things that could be researched that could actually benefit someone?

I just don't see the practical use of being able to hear what someone's typing.

posted on Sep, 25 2005 @ 12:59 PM
You could get around this by simply using your On screen Keyboard. No distinctive sounds just a bunch of mouse clicks which all sound the same.

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