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HP, Synaptics, and keyloggers in new laptops

19 December 2017

The Western press regularly publishes news about keyloggers found in new laptops and desktop PC’s coming right off store shelves.

keyloggers notebooks

Sometimes, it can be attributed to the human factor (a personal initiative of a shop assistant) or an error, but sometimes, it does look like a real thing – for example, in the case of Samsung laptops.

A week ago, a researcher by the name of Michael Myng announced that he had found keylogging functionality in the Synaptics touchpad driver on new HP laptop models. This “vulnerability” affected over 460 HP laptops, including EliteBook, HP Pavilion, and ZBook.

A few days later, Synaptics completed its investigation of the issue and reported that the scale of the problem was largely exaggerated. The touchpad drivers did have a debugging mode that can intercept data from input devices and save them to a local log. It is used for driver configuration and troubleshooting. This mode is deactivated before a device is sent to the store.

To enable the mode, you need to change the value of a particular key in the system registry that is protected by UAC and accessible only to the user with admin rights.

To rule out the possibility of any allusions, HP has released a software update that permanently removes the debugging mode for this driver from the system.