Microsoft has upgraded the weak encryption found on today’s mass-market wireless keyboards with a new design that uses 128-bit AES to secure communication to and from the PC.
Outwardly, the new Wireless Desktop 2000 is another $40 (£30) keyboard and mouse combination, integrated to speed use of Windows through embedded keys, much like every other such product sold by the company. What marks it out is ability to encrypt every keystrokes using the same encryption technology that is industry-standard in many other security systems, from hard disks to Wi-Fi.
Hitherto, keyboard encryption has been weak, with keys chosen from a small palette of possibilities, with one hacking group claiming in 2009 that it had developed a tool specifically to sniff keystrokes from Microsoft keyboards at a range up to a 10 metres.
That said, the chance of having a keyboard sniffed from a few metres is still vanishingly small when compared to other forms of attack with a proven track record, such as keyloggers. Using encryption security on a keyboard is really about closing a theoretical loophole with wireless keyboards as much as solving a major security issue.
Given that the Wireless Desktop 2000 is a mass-market keyboard and mouse, the assumption is that the encryption technology will find its way on to all of the company’s keyboards in due course.
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