Hi, Leo. I read on your site that it can be dangerous to use a wireless
mouse and keyboard. But everyone seems to be using them these days. I do like
the convenience of it. But I’m worried. What can I do to make it safer? Will a
firewall, router, or anything stop people from picking up the signals? I don’t
want to start using something where passwords or bank codes could be plucked
out of the air.
In this excerpt from
Answercast #18, I look at the dangers of using a wireless keyboard or mouse (and if you should worry about using them).
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Dangers of wireless
So, I don’t want to alarm people unnecessarily. It is theoretically possible
for people to sniff the keystrokes from a wireless keyboard to your PC.
The mouse I’m much less concerned about because all they are really getting
there is information like: the mouse moved 5 pixels left and 3 pixels up, and
they clicked the right mouse button. That doesn’t tell them anything
The keyboard, on the other hand, if it were sniffable, could potentially let
the attacker know that you’ve pressed particular keystrokes. And perhaps those
keystrokes were passwords.
The good news is that most currently available wireless keyboards use types
of encryption that are pretty good. You really don’t have to be terribly
concerned about it.
Also, the range we’re talking about here isn’t really very far. The range is
something on the order of maybe 30 feet; maybe a 100 feet at best.
So it’s one of those things where I also wouldn’t worry much unless someone
with malicious intent can get really close to your machine.
It’s not like somebody across the street, or even a couple of floors up or
down from your office, is going to be able to sneak in and listen to
your keystrokes. It really is a proximity thing.
Encryption and proximity
So between those two things – the basic encryption that’s in most current
keyboards and the kind of distance that’s involved in order to pick these
signals up – it’s not something that I really worry about.
It is something you need to be aware of if you are using an older keyboard
that may not have the best encryption. Or you are in an environment where
people are getting close enough that they could be sniffing your keyboard.
The only real solution for that, the only true solution in that case, is to
not use wireless; to use a wired keyboard.
That’s really the only way to stay completely safe in a case like
Like I said, in most cases, the threat is overstated. It’s more of a
‘possibility’ than a true threat. Most people need not worry.
End of Answercast #18. Back to –