updated 3/30/2011 9:19:12 AM ET 2011-03-30T13:19:12

The future of cybercrime may be right at your fingertips or in the palm of your hand.

Cybersecurity researcher Adrian Crenshaw, also known on his website as “Irongeek,” has created a programmable keystroke logger that can be hidden within a computer’s keyboard or mouse.

This is a huge – and potentially dangerous – step up from traditional keyloggers (devices programmed to steal and record keystrokes), that typically look like USB drives and must be inserted in a computer’s USB port.

Crenshaw explained on his site,, how he created his device. Dubbed the “PHUKD” (Programmable HID USB Keystroke Dongle), the portable weapon works by taking the circuit board off a commercially available USB microcontroller called the “Teensy” and implanting it within a keyboard or mouse.

Once inconspicuously installed in the mouse or keyboard, the PHUKD can be programmed with an astounding level of specificity to perform any number of devious tasks.

For example, Crenshaw explained that the PHUKD can be told to open when the user starts Windows, and to steal and transmit data when specific keys are pressed.

Crenshaw built the PHUKD as a proof-of-concept device, to show that despite recent high-profile crackdowns on USB devices – the U.S. military banned them and the Stuxnet worm that attacked an Iranian power plant was believed to have been transmitted by one – cybercriminals are one step ahead.

Crenshaw made no mention of selling the PHUKD keystroke logger, but the mere existence of the technology should be enough to send shivers down computer users’ spines.




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