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Is that a hole in your keyboard?

10 July 2019

Wireless technology has made life so much easier, for me at least.

No matter how much money I spent buying the "best" mouse I could afford, they'd all eventually fail due to fractures in the lead used to connect them up to the computer.

Microsoft's own-brand mouse was better than the el-cheapo $9 specials from The Warehouse but even the best that money could buy was only a "temporary" peripheral for someone that used a computer as heavily as I did. And there was *nothing* more frustrating than finding (usually at 2 in the morning), your mouse had gone all intermittent on you, making successful movement of the pointer all but impossible.

Naturally I lept at wireless mice when they arrived on the scene and I've never looked back.

The frustration of having a mouse-battery go flat at an inconvenient moment is easily dealt with by keeping a box of AA alkalines beside the monitor so all is good.

But wireless keyboards... well that's a somewhat different thing.

The Raspberry Pi which serves as a set-top box and media-centre on the big screen in the living room has a wireless keyboard connected to it and it's damned convenient.

Being able to use a real keyboard without the annoyance and inconvenience of a trailing cable is fantastic. I can type at full speed when searching for something or just mash at the +/- volume keys without having to find the TV remote as the "noise" level of a movie goes up and down by outrageous amounts during the course of the story.

However, wireless keyboards on a desktop PC... well I'm not so sure that's a good idea at all.

Why not?

Just like a mouse, freedom from potentially troublesome leads is a good thing, right?

Well yes... that aspect is great... but then there's the security issues.

Most of these wireless keyboard setups use uber-cheap 2.4GHz chipsets that have little (if any) encryption and are dead easy to hack.

Any half-capable electronics enthusiast could quickly knock up a device to monitor keystrokes and even inject their own key-presses into the flow of data.

Forget about the power of SSH and high-level encryption to encrypt your valuable login details or online banking transactions if you've got a wireless keyboard -- because odds are that the keys you press when entering your secret-squirrel login stuff are spat out into the ether with little or no protection. Anyone with their "ears" tuned in will likely be able to sniff those keystrokes and make note of them for future use.

I see that today, Slashdot linked to this story on ZDNet, containing just such a warning.

The bottom line is that there's no point in using expensive dead-bolts (SSL and hard encryption) on your house if you leave the damned window open (with a lacklustre wireless keyboard).

Of course things are not as bad perhaps as suggested, since the world isn't filled with evil little sods clasping their 2.4GHz sniffers, all poised to pounce on your bank login details next time you check your balance. However, it is as well to be aware of the potential for vulnerability in this area.

For the record, wireless mice abound in my home and work environments but only my el-cheapo entertainment centre has a wireless keyboard -- and that was a conscious decision.

Are you using a wireless keyboard?

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