HP issues fix for keylogger found pre-installed on several laptop models

A number of HP laptops come with a nasty accidental hidden "feature", in the form of a keylogger which records the user's typed input - although the issue has now been patched by the company.

So, what is the cause of the problem?

Modzero believes that there "is no evidence that this keylogger has been intentionally implemented", adding that "it is [obviously] a negligence of the developers".

"Users are not aware that every keystroke made while entering sensitive information - such as passphrases (or) passwords on local or remote systems - are captured by (the software)", the security advisory continued.

The driver, which was developed by audio chip manufacturer Conexant, is preloaded on over two dozen models of HP laptops, including the HP Elitebook, HP ProBook, and HP ZBook.

The keylogger is used by audio drivers to determine when the up and down volume control buttons have been pressed.

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"Investigators with access to the unencrypted file-system might be able to recover sensitive data of historic key logs as well", Modzero said.

The log file-located at C:\Users\Public\MicTray.log-is overwritten after each computer reboot, but there are several ways that the contents could survive for weeks, or even indefinitely. A list of affected products can be found here. Doing so, however, may disable special key function but that's a fair trade-off IMO. If you find this log file existing in your C drive, then please have it deleted immediately, says the firm.

Regardless, Modzero is advising that everyone who owns a HP computer should be on guard, and check whether C:\Windows\System32\MicTray64.exe or C:\Windows\System32\MicTray.exe is installed.

HP shares closed at $19.26 on Thursday. In other cases, the keystrokes will be passed to a Microsoft Windows debugging interface on the PC, and expose them to possible capture, Modzero said.

Specifically, the keylogger itself is embedded in a device driver called MicTray64.exe and uses a debugging feature to capture all information a user types, including passwords and user logins.

What makes this worse is that business laptops are mainly affected, and these devices are built around security - because obviously an organisation's corporate data is a very precious resource.


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