This post is about a very preliminary demo for a side channel attack using sounds emitted by the keyboard. The goal is to guess which key has been pressed based only on the emitted sound. Below is a simple program that tries to guess whether the user pressed the ‘q’ or the ‘p’ key.
The program first asks the user to press the ‘q’ and ‘p’ keys several times in order to train itself how the two keys sound. After the training is completed, the program continues to accept key presses, but now it tries to guess the key using only the captured audio data. The predicted key is displayed on the screen.
For each key, we compute an average waveform using the audio data captured during the training stage. Then for a new waveform, we compute the cross correlation (CC) with each of the known average waveforms (in this case just 2) and predict that the pressed key is the one for which the CC is maximum.
To make things easier, there are several simplifications made:
- Around 1.0 second of audio is recorded around each key press, so make sure you type slowly.
- Currently the program cannot calculate the moment of the key press, so it gets this information from the keyboard (in the demo below - from the input HTML element). Ideally, we would like to automatically detect the time of the key presses by analyzing just the audio.
Some initial results
I have currently tested this program on two different keyboards - a mechanical one and a standard non-mechanical one. When using the mechanical keyboard the accuracy of the predictions is very high (close to 100%). For the non-mechanical keyboard - the results are much worse. My guess is that the mechanical keyboard emits much more distinguishable sounds compared to the non-mechanical. Also, one might need to use a more sophisticated approach than the described one for the case of non-mechanical keyboards.
Press the Init button to start. Make sure to allow audio capture on this page. Follow the instructions shown in the Standard output window below.