The silliest and most common hiding places for passwords

When I was an IT admin, I had the pleasure of dealing often with people who would submit urgent service requests and then leave for the day, leaving their office empty and computer locked by the time I could get there to help. Fortunately, I was often able to fix their problem while they weren’t there. Why? Their password was somewhere on their desk in one of these easy-to-find locations.

Under the Keyboard. This is a pretty common one, and one of the first places to look if you need to find someone’s password (or one of the first places to avoid if you need to jot down an often-used but difficult to remember password.) The worst offenders leave them on a post-it on their keyboard tray, or under the spot where their keyboard lives. Others attach the post-it to the underside of the keyboard, thinking it’s better hidden there. In both cases, it’s a sure bet that anything under the keyboard will have a password on it…

Under the Mouse Pad. This is another common hiding place for people who don’t want to put their passwords under their keyboard. They’ll usually slide a couple of sheets of paper under the mousepad with their usernames and passwords on it and refer to them when they forget, or update them when their password expires…

Under the Desk. One of the most disturbingly common spots many officer workers hide their passwords is one of the easiest to find: right under their desk surface. Just sit down at their desk and put your hand directly under the desktop, and you’ll often find yet another post-it note attached there. Most people who do this operate under the assumption that no one’s ever under their desk to see or notice such a thing—except the IT admin or help desk tech they call when they’ve jostled the Ethernet cable loose from the back of their desktop…

I haven’t even posted half of the silly places people think are secure in the world of prairie-dog cubicles. If you’re guilty of any of these, go apologize in advance to your network administrator. You may have compromised everything that should be secure. And if your password is “1-2-3-4-5” – quit your job and go back to flipping burgers for a living.

So where should you store your passwords? RTFA for a couple of suggestions.

Need a Braille keyboard? There’s an app for that!

A team of US researchers has devised a way for people with impaired vision to use the touchscreen of an iPad as a Braille keyboard. It turns some previously fundamental thinking about how to make technology accessible to blind people on its head.

Instead of using a keyboard or mechanical writer, users type directly onto the flat glass.

“Instead of having fingers that find the buttons, we built buttons that find the fingers,” said Stanford’s Sohan Dharmaraja, one of the researchers on the project.

Users place eight fingers on the screen and the keyboard appears. Shaking the device activates a menu, and further interaction is achieved by regular touch gestures.

Mr Dharmaraja, alongside team-mates Adam Duran – an undergraduate from New Mexico University – and assistant professor Adrian Lew, came up with the idea during a boffin’s X-Factor-style contest…

There are some obvious benefits to using touchscreen technology over traditional Braille writers.

“Current physical note takers are big and clunky and range from $3,000 to $6,000. Tablet PCs are available at a fraction of the cost and do so much more,” said Mr Dharmaraja…

Accessible touch screen devices such as the iPad offer a huge range of possibilities for developers and for blind and partially sighted people,” said Robin Spinks, the Royal National Institute for Blind People’s manager of digital accessibility.

“This prototype Braille keyboard for touch screen devices represents a very promising development, and RNIB look forward to being able to test it with our members in the future,” he added.

Bravo! There is so much capability for development with additions for accessibility in the new touchscreen devices. And options like Siri – in iOS5 – will add even more potential for developers.

There’s a video demo over at the Stanford University site.

Foodie keyboard a haven for disease-carrying vermin

It’s a workplace hazard in the unlikeliest of places: your keyboard.

Errant breadcrumbs and cookie morsels that fall into the depths of your board as you nosh are prime midnight snacks for disease-carrying vermin.

When office workers head home at the end of the day, mice often come out to play

And they scrounge for food on top of – and even in – desks, leaving droppings and disease in their wake, European researchers say.

Workers who fail to keep their desk area clean and crumb-free can get sick simply by typing on a pooped-on keyboard and then picking up a sandwich or piece of fruit with their unwashed hands, the researchers warn…

Scientists swabbed keyboards in their London offices and found traces of E. coli, coliforms and enterobacteria, which all cause food poisoning.

They warned that mice droppings can also fall between the keys as the rodents snoop around.

Cripes. You could start a keyboard cleaning and detailing business going office-to-office, building-to-building.

Maybe I should compose all my posts like this one – on my iPad? No cracks between the keys on a touchscreen.

Keyboard sniffers steal data without touching your computer

Computer criminals could soon be eavesdropping on what you type by analysing the electromagnetic signals produced by every key press.

By analysing the signals produced by keystrokes, Swiss researchers have reproduced what a target typed. They have developed four attacks that work on a wide variety of computer keyboards.

The results led the researchers to declare keyboards were “not safe to transmit sensitive information”.

In their work the researchers used a radio antenna to “fully or partially recover keystrokes” by spotting the electromagnetic radiation emitted when keys were pressed.

Details of the attacks are scant but the work is expected to be reported in a peer-reviewed journal soon.

That last link takes you to their website.

Looks like the really paranoid will have to work from inside a Faraday Cage. Come to think of it, doesn’t the U.S. military already do that?