HP’s second laptop keylogger in less than a year

PRIVACY SCARE!

Graham Cluley

The HP laptop keylogger

The HP laptop keylogger

Researcher Michael Myng was trying to work out how to control the backlight on an HP laptop keyboard.

What he found instead was that the keyboard driver used by 475 models of HP laptops contained a secret keylogger, capable (potentially) of stealing passwords and other confidential information.

The news made for some pretty scary headlines, and – as I discussed in a past episode of the “Smashing Security” podcast – it’s not the first time that a hidden keylogger on HP devices has caused eyebrows to be raised.

But, before you get too alarmed, bear this in mind. The keylogger in the HP Synaptics Touchpad driver (SynTP.sys) keyboard driver was not enabled by default.

It looks like, once again, debugging code was contained in a keyboard driver shipped by HP. To turn on the debug “feature” a user with admin privileges would have to make a change to the Windows registry, whereupon keystrokes would be logged to a local file.

Not a great scenario, but also not as bad as it being enabled by default, or your keypresses being beamed to a server under the control of HP or Synapatics.

HP has issued a security advisory, and pushed out updates to fix the potential security issue.

Of course you should ensure that any affected devices are patched as soon as possible, and if you’re a developer learn the lesson not to leave debug code lurking within your shipping code if it might put users’ privacy and security at risk.

And, if you really feel you do need to be seriously disgruntled about something, feel angry that HP has now made the same mistake twice in less than a year. That’s certainly something worthy of turning your CAPS-LOCK on for.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

3 Replies to “HP’s second laptop keylogger in less than a year”

  1. >>>Snip
    HP has issued a security advisory, and pushed out updates to fix the potential security issue.
    <<<Snip

    There was a public advisory to the tech media but there was NO mention of it in my HP Support Assistant and neither were there any Pushed updates.

    I eventually did find the fix on the HP site but that was a long and arduous process.

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