A number of HP laptops come with a nasty accidental hidden ‘feature’, in the form of a keylogger which records the user’s typed input – although the issue has now been patched by the company.
According to security firm Modzero, the keylogger is apparently buried in a Conexant audio driver, and it monitors keystrokes, recording keyboard input in a log file. Anyone who can access that file on the physical PC itself, or indeed pull off tricks to access it with malware, can potentially grab data such as typed passwords and so forth.
What makes this worse is that business laptops are mainly affected, and these devices are built around security – because obviously an organisation’s corporate data is a very precious resource.
According to Modzero, affected models include HP EliteBook, HP Elite x2 1012, ProBook and ZBook devices among others – although consumer laptops are also hit. HP hasn’t made it clear exactly which pieces of hardware are affected, but if you’re running the Conexant audio driver and its MicTray64.exe, then you’ve potentially got a problem.
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When the bug was discovered, Modzero’s suggested workaround was to “delete MicTray executables and log files” (although that will obviously impair the function of your laptop to some degree).
However, the good news is that HP has reacted quickly here with a full solution, and a patch is already available (via Windows Update) for affected models from 2016 or this year, so you don’t need to worry about the workaround. 2015 models are getting the fix at some point later today.
HP also clarified that it didn’t get any access to customer data as a result of this problem. In a statement, the company said: "HP is committed to the security and privacy of its customers and we are aware of the keylogger issue on select HP PCs. HP has no access to customer data as a result of this issue. Our supplier partner developed software to test audio functionality prior to product launch and it should not have been included in the final shipped version."
This sort of glaring hole sneaking into third-party drivers is certainly something HP will want to avoid in the future.
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