It’s hard to believe now, but the first wireless mouse was invented in the 1980s. To put that in perspective, that’s before most people even had personal computers. By the early 2000s, a wireless mouse was a fixture in homes, schools, offices and more. Like all technology, everything is moving increasingly to the world without wires.
Most people don’t realize, however, that these devices also have serious security vulnerabilities. They may allow hackers to gain access to your computer. From here, attackers can remotely control webcams and other peripherals, monitor keystrokes, and steal your personal information. Don’t worry; you don’t need to go back to a clunky, wired system. However, it’s essential to follow these security measures.
A Different Kind of Threat
There are more than 1 billion wireless mice in the world. Of these, experts say, over 160 million are weak links in a company’s security chain. Classic hacking involved somebody inserting an infected floppy disk into a computer terminal. Nowadays, the vast majority of cyber security threats come over the internet. Wireless mouse hacks—also known as mousejacks—are definitely throwbacks to that classic hacking era.
Just like with a floppy disk, most companies don’t use any kind of encryption between the mouse and the host computer. In this case, the mouse provides the point of entry to first penetrate a computer, then a network. Hackers can view keystrokes, track browsing history, and much more. In addition, they don’t even need to be close to do this. There have been successful mousejacks from up to 180 meters (590.5 feet) away from the target computer.
How Hackers Attack Mice
Hackers have created a variety of tools to attack mice and other wireless devices. Some of the most common are WiFi sniffers. Generally, IT professionals use WiFi sniffers to monitor network usage and security to diagnose network problems. Hackers use this same technology to scan all WiFi connections. From here, they can easily access any unencrypted devices like mice and keyboards.
They can record keystrokes, mouse clicks, and much more all without anybody noticing it. They are also extremely easy to disguise as many look like USB or laptop chargers. Most commonly, hackers will sit in cafes and other busy areas scanning for unsecured connections. They may steal personal information from one computer or use it as a “clone” or base to send out malicious attacks across the web. This is why offices located in busy areas need to be particularly vigilant with their wireless network security.
How to Protect Yourself
Some larger companies like Microsoft and Logitech have created firmware updates that do take some steps to remedy this problem. However, this still may not be enough to protect your peripherals. The first step is to check if your mouse supports encryption. Search Google and check if your mouse has this feature. Sometimes, it may be as simple as enabling encryption in your mouse settings. In other cases, you may have to find a third party or software to use with your devices.
It’s also essential to protect your network connection. The best way to do this is through a VPN (a virtual private network). VPNs encrypt your connection with the highest level of security (you can download one here). This is particularly effective for wireless mice that use WiFi connection. Likewise, VPNs provide an excellent wall of security so that if somebody else’s computer on a network is hacked via mouse, you still remain safe. Finally, consider switching to a Bluetooth mouse, which is not susceptible to this kind of attack.
Ensuring Total Online Security
More than anything, people need to realize hackers are extremely creative. If there is a vulnerability anywhere, they will find and exploit it. Unless you plan to only use your computer from locked underground vaults and never access the internet, there is always a potential for cybersecurity threats. However, you can protect yourself. This begins by securing your network connection by using a VPN.
A VPN encrypts and anonymizes your internet connection with the highest level of security. From here, make sure all peripherals also use encryption technology so that nobody can gain remote access to your computer. Finally, routinely check for firmware and other updates to make sure you have the latest security patches. There are always new digital threats, but these steps will ensure that you’ll stay safe against them.