Who Hacked My Wireless Mouse?

Mar 16, 2016

New, sleek wireless keyboards and mice have become hugely popular. They require fewer cables on the desk, you can move away from your desk to use them if necessary, they free up a USB port, and they look great at home. Using them at work is a different story altogether.

Good for Business, Or Not?

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With all items of convenience there is always a trade-off. First, all wireless keyboards and mice require batteries. Standard batteries are fine, but once their power is used up, they go to your local landfill.

Fact: 2 batteries per mouse and keyboard = 4… x’s 100 employees over 6 months is 2,400 batteries!

Not So Cheap After All

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The alternative is to use rechargeable batteries, however they hold less of a charge than a standard battery, and most will take only ~1000 recharges before they stop working. Do you really want this additional maintenance overlay layered onto an already complex environment when thinking about the support of IT infrastructure at your enterprise?

If cost savings is your objective, the ability to recharge multiple times does offset the higher price of having bought the more expensive rechargeable batteries, but you’re dealing with more regular disruption to charge the batteries. And in the enterprise, multiply the expense, the added labor times…50, 100, 200 individual workstations. We advocate thinking twice when entertaining the request for a shiny new wireless mouse and keyboard from Bobby over in marketing who “really needs it to be more productive.”

The burden alone to your internal (or outsourced) help desk function is guaranteed to have resources focused on anything but your strategic imperatives. All for the pretty desktop look?

Can’t Stand the Interference

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The problem is, keyboards and mice talk on the same wireless frequencies as your average wireless computer network, and they’ve all become so popular that there is now radio congestion. This might not sound like an issue, as these devices are well engineered and intelligent, right? Picture yourself in the middle cubicle of an office that has employees all around you, and everyone is using wireless keyboards and mice. Chances are you are already experiencing this issue and your mouse and keyboard don’t behave correctly. It’s not your equipment malfunctioning, it’s that there’s interference from other similar devices. This spells even more trouble tickets and burden on the help desk function.

And now for the kicker…”MouseJacking”

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According to Tim Green of Network Work (Feb 23, 2016), countless wireless mice and keyboards are subject to “MouseJacking” including products from Amazon, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Logitech and Microsoft.

At PCIO we think the following is rather sensational at best, but Green reports that your wireless mouse and keyboard can be hacked from 100 yards away leaving their host machines open to malware. Seriously, we are not alarmists but want to include a reference to this recent article because it’s out there. Just because a wireless mouse can be compromised doesn’t mean it will be form most of us.

Safer, Cheaper, And No Trouble

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In the scenario where an office has a wireless network and a lot of people in a close area, a basic wired USB keyboard and wired USB mouse is the most logical, and these days the safest, choice. Wired mice and keyboards don’t suffer from the communication issues outlined above; they also cost about half the price of their wireless counterparts. And it’s impossible for a hacker to take control of your wired mouse and keyboard unless he’s literally visiting in your office; but that’s another kind of security issue.

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Lastly, think of the all the more important matters your IT support staff (or outsourcing provider) can focus on in support of your business. Your IT spend is anything but an unlimited resource.

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