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 Friday, October 24, 2008
Don't have security nightmares

How worried should we be about net security scares, asks Bill Thompson.

Anyone concerned about the security of their computers and the data held on them might sleep a little uneasily tonight.

Over the past few weeks we've heard reports of serious vulnerabilities in wireless networking and chip and pin readers, and seen how web browsers could fall victim to "clickjacking" and trick us into inadvertently visiting fake websites.

The longstanding fear that malicious software might start infecting our mobile phones was given a boost when the Information Security Center at US university Georgia Tech outlined how phone software could be hijacked to create "botnets" and allow handsets to be remotely controlled.

And now a group of researchers at the Security and Cryptography Laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland have shown that you can read what is typed on a keyboard from 20m away.

It takes some sophisticated equipment to do it, but with the right antennae and a bit of luck it seems you can detect the radio emissions coming from the wires that connect keyboards to computers and tell just what someone is typing.

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