Scientists develop ‘keylogger’ for smartwatch wearers

A group of scientists has found a way to find out what they are typing on a keyboard in smartwatch wearers. For this they use information from the accelerometer, the gyroscope and the rhythm with which they type.

Called Motion Leaks, or MoLe for short, a number of researchers at the University of Illinois have presented a way to retrieve words typed on a conventional keyboard. Exactly how the method works is explained in a paper published online. According to the creators, they have built a statistical model that predicts which words are typed on a keyboard by people who wear a smartwatch. These predictions are made based on measurable information, such as the position of the wrist, which is read with an accelerometer and gyroscope, the heart rate and the rhythm with which you type.

Based on the information gathered, MoLe predicts exactly what is typed on a keyboard from a list of 5000 commonly used English words. Spaces cannot be recognized yet, limiting the concept to individual words. It is possible that an improved version will be released in the future, so that, for example, complete sentences can also be retrieved. Also, songs cannot be recognized at the moment.

The researchers told Popsci that their method is not yet really suitable for recovering passwords. However, that’s not to say that other people aren’t working on it, according to researcher He Wang. Those who are afraid of tracking via smartwatch sensors can, for example, type with their smartwatch-less hand, the scientists advise.