Dummy mouse cursors defeat shoulder surfing co-workers

Japanese system also beats screen capture malware

Japanese researchers have come up with an ingenious solution to the perennial security problem of shoulder surfing and screen capture malware - make it impossible for co-workers or screen scrapers to see what has been entered by filling the screen with dummy mouse cursors.

The problem being addressed by Japan Science and Technology (JST) Agency was that while dummy keypads used in applications such as online banks work well as a defence against software keyloggers they can still be subverted by screen capturing malware.

They are also in some cases vulnerable to individuals in the same room as the users memorising PIN numbers or passwords as they are entered.

To counter this, JST's lateral-thinking solution is to fill the screen in front of a PIN keypad with numerous moving dummy mouse cursors, disguising the user's real cursor in the visual confusion.

In tests, upping the number of cursors to 20 or more caused an attacker to fail to guess the correct PIN number 99 percent of the time.

The team also created a second 'SymmetricCursors' version, which takes the concept to an extreme by moving cursors to every character position on a dial even as the user moves to the cursor to the real key.

The team claims that users don't themselves become confused about which keys they are pressing despite the lack of visual feedback.

"We still need to find out more about how people recognise their cursor," said JPL researcher Keita Watanabe in a video demonstrating the system.

"Now that we've discovered this phenomenon we want to use eye-trackers and fMRI [functional magnetic resonance imaging) to learn about the biometric relationships," he said.

A video explaining the ERATO Igarashi Design User Interface Project system can be found on YouTube.

It's not clear how easily keylogging malware could be adjusted to track cursor movement to counter such a design; a proof-of-concept IE exploit of that technique surfaced last \december. It might be difficult is the technology was implemented as a plug-in within specific browsers because the cursors would be extremely difficult to distinguish from dummy ones.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Personal Techsecurity

More about Technology

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place