New Thermal Imaging Tech Can Detect Password Off Your Keyboard in Seconds

Researchers have found a new way of collecting data using keyboards, this time through equipment costing thousands of dollars, meaning you probably don’t have to worry about hackers gaining access to yours.

The new method looks at the thermal residue, or the heat you leave on the keyboard keys after you’ve typed something on them. It was researched by the people at the University of California, and reported by the security firm ESET. The findings were published in a paper titled: “Thermanator: Thermal Residue-Based Post Factum Attacks On Keyboard Password Entry.”

Testing Methodology

They enlisted the help of 30 different individuals to type 10 different passwords, a combination of both strong and weak ones. They used thermal imaging equipment worth £1,200 and tried it out on four different keyboards.

They found that the recovery of data was possible up to a minute after the passwords were typed. Further, passwords could be decoded in their entirety in up to 30 seconds after they were first entered.


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The researchers used experts as well as novices to decipher the data, and both times it was easy to extract the required information. And as thermal sensing devices become cheaper and more accessible, the method could become more of a threat than it is now.

Not Just Keyboards

This isn’t the first time that thermal residue has been used to decipher private information. According to ESET, in 2011, researchers proved it was possible to decode PIN codes on ATM machines using the same method.

The threat can be mitigated in a number of ways, such as rubbing fingers over your keyboard after typing, using the on-screen keyboard or, if you are really paranoid, wearing heat-insulating gloves.

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