Heat as a new weapon for hackers to discover your passwords


Thanks to the heat left by the fingers on the keys of a keyboard, an Artificial Intelligence is able to discover even the most complex passwords. Explanations.

Here is a new technique that should please the spy services. Provided you can gain access to the targeted device, it is possible to guess the passwords entered on a computer, a smartphone and especially an ATM. How ? By analyzing the heat residue left by the user’s fingers when he typed his password or code. It works with a keyboard or, of course, a screen and therefore also on the keys of an ATM.

This funny idea comes from researchers at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. They have developed a system called ThermoSecure. Through this experiment, they sought to show that with thermal cameras whose prices are falling (approx. 250 euros) and artificial intelligence, sometimes freely available, a clever hacker can create a system at low cost to collect the identifiers of a device in seconds. They called this threat, “thermal attacks”.

For this to work, the user must have entered his password or his code a little before. It’s a bit strange to unlock a device and then leave it, but why not. On the other hand, this is necessarily the case for an ATM. The hacker must then use a thermal camera to take a picture of the keyboard or the screen. On the image, the brighter an area appears on the thermal image, the less time it has been touched. It is by examining these zones that it is possible to determine the keys, letters or symbols used, but also their order of entry. Even on a complex password, it only takes a few combination attempts to manage to decipher the sesame.

Doctor Khamis shows the thermal image of a keyboard on which fingers have left traces of heat.  © University of Glasgow

Doctor Khamis shows the thermal image of a keyboard on which fingers have left traces of heat. © University of Glasgow

100% success for sesames of six characters

According to (…)

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