Researchers Translate Laptop Keystrokes into Text with 95% Accuracy Using Sound-Based Attack

Researchers Translate Laptop Keystrokes into Text with 95% Accuracy Using Sound-Based Attack | The Entrepreneur Review

A team of researchers in the United Kingdom has made a significant breakthrough by demonstrating a method to translate the sounds of laptop keystrokes into their corresponding letters with astonishing accuracy. The researchers achieved a remarkable 95% accuracy rate in certain cases using a nearby iPhone to capture the sound. The implications of this breakthrough raise concerns about potential privacy breaches and data exfiltration through a method known as an acoustic side-channel attack (ASCA).

New Revelations

The study revealed that even remote methods of capturing keystrokes were alarmingly accurate. During Zoom calls, the accuracy of recorded keystrokes only decreased to 93%, while Skype calls retained a 91.7% accuracy rate. This form of attack utilizes microphones, which are commonly found in laptops, smart devices, and other everyday environments, making it a pervasive and highly effective method for data exfiltration.

What sets this research apart is the researchers’ achievement of record-breaking accuracy without relying on a traditional language model. Instead, they harnessed the power of deep learning and self-attention transformer layers to capture typing sounds and convert them into exploitable data.

To demonstrate their findings, the researchers recorded the typing sounds of a person using a 2021 MacBook Pro, positioned 17cm away, and processed the audio to identify keystroke signatures. These signatures were then analyzed by a sophisticated deep learning model incorporating convolution and attention networks to accurately predict the pressed keys or key sequences.

Effects of the Study

The implications of this research extend beyond mere privacy concerns. Traditional defenses against side-channel attacks may not be effective in this case. However, the researchers proposed some mitigation strategies, including changing typing styles to make accurate keystroke identification more challenging. Proficient touch typists were shown to be particularly resistant to this type of attack, as their typing style proved harder to predict.

The researchers also recommend using randomized passwords with mixed cases to mitigate the risk of password theft. They noted that certain keystrokes, such as the “release-peak” of the shift key, remain difficult to recognize amidst other key sounds, reinforcing the importance of mixing uppercase and lowercase letters in passwords.

Security Concerns

While the study primarily focused on passwords, it also raised concerns about the security of other sensitive information, such as company records and customer data. To address this, the researchers suggested a novel approach of masking genuine keystroke sounds by introducing fake keystroke sounds during Skype and Zoom transmissions. This method, when applied after recording, demonstrated the best performance while minimizing user annoyance.

The implications of this research underscore the need for enhanced cybersecurity measures to safeguard against acoustic side-channel attacks. As technology continues to evolve, researchers are exploring new sources for capturing sounds, such as smart speakers, and refining keystroke isolation techniques. Additionally, the integration of language models into this method could further amplify its effectiveness, creating a pressing need for advanced countermeasures.

Source: The Register
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