Hackers Use Heat Traces Left On Keyboards to Steal Passwords

By: | July 15th, 2018

If you are confident that your computer password is safe, think again! A new study by researchers from the University of California, Irvine, has revealed that when you type your password on your laptop or computer keyboard, you leave heat traces on the keys. Hackers can pick up these heat traces using a thermal imaging camera and use them to steal your password.

Researchers discovered that key presses can be recovered within half a minute after the key was pressed using forward looking infrared (FLIR) cameras. Hackers can use these thermal imaging cameras to scan your computer keyboard after you type your password.

Researchers explained, “Although thermal residue dissipates over time, there is always a certain time window during which thermal energy readings can be harvested from input devices to recover recently entered, and potentially sensitive, information.”

The researchers named this new type of attack “Thermanator.” Hackers can use it to gain access to text, codes. and even banking PINs.

A member of the research team stated, “As formerly niche sensing devices become less and less expensive, new side-channel attacks move from ‘Mission: Impossible’ towards reality. This is especially true considering the constantly decreasing cost and increasing availability of high-quality thermal imagers.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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