Threat Actors Find Backdoor Way to Hack Passwords Using Sound of Keyboard Typing

September 3, 2019

Hikvision HikWire blog article password hacks by typing sounds

Hikvision Cyber Blogs: Tips to Prevent Exploits and Account Hacks


A new study found that hackers might have found a backdoor method to determine a person’s password by listening to the sounds made when a person is typing, according to an article in Security magazine.

From the study’s website announcement: “You likely know to avoid suspicious emails to keep hackers from gleaning personal information from your computer. But a new study from SMU (Southern Methodist University) suggests that it’s possible to access your information in a much subtler way: by using a nearby smart phone to intercept the sound of your typing. Researchers from SMU’s Darwin Deason Institute for Cybersecurity found that acoustic signals, or sound waves, produced when we type on a computer keyboard can successfully be picked up by a smartphone. The sounds intercepted by the phone can then be processed, allowing a skilled hacker to decipher which keys were struck and what they were typing.”

Researchers were looking to study gaps in security, and determine if a smartphone placed on the same table as a laptop could decipher the password keys typed in. Study results found 41 percent accuracy level in determining the words typed using a typical keyboard and smartphone. This held true even if the room was filled with other noise, such as people holding conversations.   

“We were looking at security holes that might exist when you have these ‘always-on’ sensing devices–that being your smartphone. We wanted to understand if what you’re typing on your laptop, or any keyboard for that matter, could be sensed by just those mobile phones that are sitting on the same table,” said Eric Larson, study author and assistant professor at SMU, in the article.

Hikvision Tips to Prevent Exploits and Account Hacks
Hikvision has an extensive library of cybersecurity blogs that offers tips to prevent exploits and account hacks, and protect passwords. A recent article, “New Study Finds Organizations have Concerns with Security Operation Centers, Uncovers Most Commonly Identified Exploits,” outlines common exploits which include malware attacks, exploiting known vulnerabilities, malicious insiders, and spear phishing.

Spear phishing is a special kind of phishing attack that targets a specific person or organization. Spear phishing emails typically have information about the victim in the email that makes the email seem like it’s from a credible source. Hikvision’s cybersecurity director, Chuck Davis, outlines examples of spear phishing in this blog.

Davis also discussed using password managers to reduce security concerns and risk of being hacked in this blog. In it, Davis said: “A Password Manager is a software tool that is used to store all of your passwords in an encrypted file so that you, and no one else, have very easy access to them, helping to minimize security concerns. Most modern password managers have additional features such as cloud storage, auto-filling fields, and password generators that make very good passwords. The cloud storage feature of password managers provides easy access to your passwords from different devices. While it sounds scary to have all of your passwords stored online, a good password manager will encrypt all of your password data before it is uploaded to the cloud and will make sure that only you have the keys (the master password that you set) to decrypt your passwords on each device.”

For more, view our complete list of cyber blogs here.

IMPORTANT! This model requires non-standard firmware. Do Not Install standard firmware (e.g. v.4.1.xx) on this model. Doing so will permanently damage your system. You must use custom firmware v.4.1.25 from the iDS-9632NXI-I8/16S product page.

View the most updated version of this document here:


The I-series NVR (such as the DS-7716NI-I4) is one of Hikvision's most popular and feature-rich recorders. As such, many firmware revisions have been introduced over the years to continually ensure the product is compatible with the newest technology available. Due to the many revisions, we recommend that the user closely follows the instructions below in order to reduce the amount of time spent as well as the chance of failure.


Database Optimization and Repair

As more affordable IP cameras are introduced over time with greater video resolution and data sizes, more efficient database management also becomes necessary. The introduction of firmware v4.0 brought about a new database architecture in order to be futureproof.


After upgrading to v4.X, the recorder database will need to be converted and optimized. If you are experiencing issues where playback is expected but not found, make sure "Database Repair" is performed as indicated in the procedures and scenarios below.


Preparing the Upgrade

Before proceeding with upgrade, it is recommended that NVR configuration file is exported from the NVR over the network or on to a local USB drive.


Upgrading from v3.4.92 build 170518 or Older

  1. All recorders must reach v3.4.92 before proceeding further. Upgrading from versions before v3.4.92 directly to any version of v4.X will likely cause the recorder to fail.
  2. If the recorder is already at v3.4.92, a full factory default is highly recommended before upgrading to any version of v4.X. There is a high chance of unit failure (requiring RMA) if the unit is not defaulted before upgrade.
  3. After reaching v3.4.92 and performing a full factory default, an upgrade directly to v4.50.00 is acceptable.
  4. After the upgrade is completed and the recorder is reprogrammed, it may be beneficial to perform a Database Repair. For details, refer to the section "Database Optimization and Repair" above.
  5. To verify repair progress, you may refer to the HDD status, or search the recorder log for repair started and stopped entries. Note that while the HDD is repairing, new recordings are still being made, but some existing recordings may not be searchable until repair is complete.
  6. If you continue to observe playback issues after database repair, ensure there are no power, network, or motion detection issues. Should the problem persist, contact technical support.


Upgrading from Any v4.X Build to v4.50.00.

  1. Any v4.X build can be upgraded directly to v4.50.00.
  2. Export configuration is highly recommended before performing the upgrade.
  3. If upgrading from any v4.X version that was not v4.22.005, a Database Repair is recommended. Refer to Step 4 and onwards in the previous section.



Downgrading is not recommended. Due to new features and parameters constantly being added, downgrading may cause the NVR to factory default itself or require a manual default to operate properly.

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