HP rolls out patch to fix keylogging bug in certain laptops

HP Elitebook 1030

HP is selling more than two dozen models of laptops and tablets that covertly monitor every keystroke a user makes, security researchers warned Thursday.

So, what is the cause of the problem?

"There is no evidence that this keylogger has been intentionally implemented", the security firm said in its blog post.

That particular audio driver was only installed on 28 laptop models that HP had been selling since late 2015.

Modzero has traced the vulnerability to HP laptops sold since Christmas 2015, including models in the EliteBook, ProBook, ZBook, Elite x2, ZBook, and EliteBook Folio families.

The keylogger is used by audio drivers to determine when the up and down volume control buttons have been pressed. The devices then store the key presses in an unencrypted file on the hard drive.

ModZero said the log file is overwritten every time the computer is booted up.

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"However, the special function keys on the keyboards might no longer work as expected".

28 models of HP laptops running either Windows 7 or Windows 10 are affected, the full list of which is available on Modzero's advisory notice.

A spokesman for HP responded to the concerns in a statement sent out to the media, in which they said: 'HP is committed to the security of its customers and we are aware of an issue on select HP PCs. Unfortunately, it also writes out all keystroke data into a publicly accessible file located at C:\Users\Public\MicTray.log. The Swiss firm then chose to go public with the issue.

According to market analysis by Gartner (Frankfurt: 887957 - news), HP's machines accounted for 19.5% of worldwide personal computer shipments during the first quarter of this year, with over 12 million units being shipped.

Apparently the keylogger "feature" was put into the production code - presumably for debugging purposes - but should have been removed in the final release of the audio driver.

The HP update not only removes the driver's keylogger capabilities, but also the log file where these keystrokes were saved. However, the number of consumers affected by the issue remains unknown.

A company spokesperson also assured the public that HP has had no access to the keylogger tool and any passwords or other details recorded by the driver were not seen by anyone at HP.

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