Security is something that is never far from a smartphone owner’s mind. After all, these little computers, be they of the iOS, Android, or other variety, contain the keys to our lives.

Just think about the kind of information you keep on your iPhone; the kinds of passwords you enter as a matter of routine. Gmail passwords, Paypal passwords, your bank’s internet banking details: it all goes through your iPhone.

According to new research by the Georgia Institute of Technology, it’s possible that all these keystrokes could be logged, and all thanks to your iPhone’s accelerometer. But before you rush out to change all your passwords, it’s worth checking out just what such a keylogging attack would entail…

The magic happens thanks to your iPhone’s accelerometer. Yes, that sensor that tells your iPhone which direct it is facing could actually be helping people to steal your data, but it’s not quite as simple as that.

According to Patrick Traynor, assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Computer Science, in order for the attack to work, an iPhone (or other smartphone, for that matter) would need to be within a few inches of a computer’s keyboard, and the logging software would need to be active ont he device being attacked.

But how, assuming those two rather unlikely occurrences do coincide with each other, does this attack work?

Magic, of course:

“When the iPhone is positioned within a few inches of a computer keyboard, it can kinetically capture the keyboard’s physical vibration. The attack method has so far shown an 80 percent success rate, says Traynor. “Every time you touch a key you create a physical vibration and it’s recorded by the accelerometer in the phone.”

Yes, you read that right. The vibration created by your pressing on your iPhone actually creates a slight vibration, which is then registered by the built-in accelerometer. The vibration itself helps the software to pinpoint where on the screen the user tapped, and hence, which keys were pressed.

Of course, this may technically be possible, but it’s more likely someone will either guess your weak passwords, or just steal your iPhone. Traynor himself admits the attack is not a trivial matter, but that the research does serve as a proof of concept.

As interesting as this is, we won’t be losing any sleep over it just yet.

  • jamesandyori

    Ahhhhhhhh we are all going to die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just kidding!

    Good story never the less!


  • John doe

    Keyloggers have been around For ages! Theres much better ways to keylog someone than hoping to catch the person typing on his/her phone just inches away from thier keyboard

  • Topsy

    Good articles. Never been a lover of vibration. I hate when my iPhone vibrates upon every touch.

  • Na

    I think you got it’s saying if you set it beside your keyboard, your iPhone that has been compromised with a key logger will log anything you type on your COMPUTER’S keyboard.

  • just me

    Suggest you read it the original article properly, the iPhones sensor picks up vibrations… therefore the iPhone can potentially detect the strokes of a keyboard… Doh!

  • Max

    I got an iPod, NO VIBRATIONS FOR ME 😀

  • JJ

    What is written makes no sense. You said the iPhone detects the vibration of you tapping on the screen? Then where does a computer keyboard come into play?

    Do you mean if an iPhone is close to a computer keyboard and you set your iPhone a few inches from the computer keyboard and the iPhone has the said software Installed and active. then the iPhone could possibly detect the vibration from the computer keyboard.

    Is this what you mean?? Please rephrase this article. You contradict what the article says.

    • SRUm1sh

      i think this is what it means.

  • G’broni

    This article is dumb.

  • moob

    upon first reading i almost had to check the date to make sure this wasn’t an April 1st prank, i mean c’mon if you hadnt sourced this from an Institute research study this would be exactly the type of scaremongering crap i’d expect from the Android community.

  • RG

    wrong title. should read… “cheap computer/keyboards may be sunceptible to kelogger attacks”.. if any smartphone is set closed by with a sensitive accelerometer… bla bla bla…the iphone has not to do anything with these “vulnerability”

  • hades

    Seriously, if you are going to copy most of the original article’s content, at least get the message right.
    This page should be updated.

  • HPC

    This article makes no sense, and I’m obviously not the only person confused by it. It’s totally unclear how this key logger is supposed to work. Terrible article.