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Using spellcheck? Electromagnetic fields could reveal your writing

Jeremy Kirk | Jan. 12, 2015
Georgia Tech is studying better software and hardware designs to prevent electronic snooping.

But turn spellcheck on, and things get really noisy. The signals can be picked up by an AM radio, Prvulovic said. In fact, the processing is so loud, it's audible: a person can hear it.

Each keystroke causes the spellchecker to look up the word in a dictionary to try to catch a mistake and flag it.

"It turns out that spellchecking is orders of magnitude more activity than you would normally get for just a simple key press," he said. "Modern software does a lot of stuff that is convenient but horribly computationally intensive. That creates differences that can be picked up."

 

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