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updated 7/15/2011 2:19:04 PM ET 2011-07-15T18:19:04

An innovative spin on an old-school 1990's computer hacking trick has iPad users looking over their shoulders in fear.

Haroon Meer, a South African security researcher with the firm Thinkst, has built "shoulderPad," an app that puts a decidedly modern twist on "shoulder surfing," the outdated hacking practice of snooping over someone's shoulder to steal their sensitive computer information.

Meer's shoulderPad app analyzes the light given off when a person enters a passcode on the iPad's touchscreen. From there, shoulderApp, using the built in camera on the snooper's device, runs the keystrokes through an image recognition algorithm that reads and interprets them to detect exactly what the victim entered.

Meer said the same technology, a combination of traditional spying and futuristic keystroke detection, could also be applied to footage from surveillance cameras.

With all the advanced cybercrime techniques, from Wi-Fi hijacking to spear-phishing to voicemail hacking to  government server intrusions, it's almost refreshing — albeit still threatening — to see researchers reverting back to the tried-and-true methods.

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