Uber Keyboard Hides Security Tools In Plain Sight


[EverestX] works in the Security industry and is often required to recover or penetrate various systems for a variety of reasons. He wanted to create an all-in-one tool that he could easily carry from job to job which would provide him with several essential functions. He required that the device house a bootable operating system through which he can perform his work, have an Internet connection capable of injection, and have enough storage capacity to back up passwords, images, etc.

He decided to build the system inside an old IBM M-type keyboard, which provides a solid typing experience and plenty of real estate for his various components. After converting the keyboard from PS/2 to USB, he installed a USB hub along with his flash drive and WiFi card.

Once he gets everything reassembled, it should prove to be a pretty stealthy and useful piece of equipment. A word to the wise – if you happen to see someone sneaking around your office with a 20-year old Type-M keyboard, be wary.

38 thoughts on “Uber Keyboard Hides Security Tools In Plain Sight

  1. Heh,

    I had the same idea a few months ago. Props to him for actually doing it a year+ before me. The biggest issue I found was when I looked up the power draw for a IBM Model M and found out that it’s a real pig compared to typical USB keyboards, which limits what else you can cram in.

    My reason for wanting to take on the project was also to get around the ‘work makes me use this crappy computer/OS’ problem. Put a usb thumb drive, a wifi card, etc, and boot your work computer off your own keyboard!


  2. “If you happen to see someone sneaking around your office with a 20-year old Type-M keyboard, be wary”

    Note: some people (such as me) use model M keyboards for plain old typing. We’re not all up to no good

  3. “2 things to improve it
    a: detatchable usb cable input(type b jack)
    and b: external hub ports for plugging MORE stuff into it”

    The moment you get additional stuff like that sticking out of the board kind makes it stand out a bit more.

  4. Later on in the comments, the builder notes some power problems when turning on the wifi. No surprise, as the Model M draws a lot of juice. I’ve heard some USB to PS/2 adapters just can’t supply enough current to run one.

    Maybe drawing power from 2 or 3 USB ports would do the trick, but that would hurt portability. I wonder if there’s a way to reduce the power draw from the keyboard itself?

  5. Uh, yeah, just like today’s young hardware hackers are often tomorrow’s engineers.

    The security industry has hired known hackers in the past for their valuable input too.

    1. Some wireless cards don’t allow you to switch them into ‘monitor’ mode. When you need that feature, for listening to active attacks or crafting your own, having the wrong WiFi card is a pain.

  6. This reminds me of something I did in high school.

    The admins, for whatever reason, wouldn’t allow use to bring thumb drives to use with the portable (i.e. laptops in a rack) computer lab.

    They had no problem, however, with USB mice. (especially since these laptops had no touchpads, just red pointer nipples.)

    So to get my Linux Live USB, I combined a mouse, a thumb drive, and a USB hub.

  7. well put a beagle board inside and you would have a complete machine in the keyboard, ready to be attached to the network via cable or via wifi to do whatever need to be done.

  8. …Oh yeah? And what happens if booting from other sources is disabled on the targeted machine, which also happens to have a password on the BIOS…? Is he really going to take a screwdriver to it…? :)

    Fun aside, this could be upped a notch by including actual processing hardware (a CPU) in there. There was a thingie called “black dog” a few years ago (gone now), that looked like a bigger thumb drive and did just that: It did boot the “host” computer via the included “mass storage” drive, but only launched an X-server that proceeded to connect to the mini “computer” running inside the “thumb drive” – you were using the host’s keyboard, screen and net connection, but you were actually logged into your own portable computer.

    I kinda think it was neat… a shame it didn’t pan out further.

    1. Generally most machines in datacenters don’t have bios passwords. This is because it makes remote reboots difficult, or require special rsa/alom cards. Disabling boot from other devices is however another issue. very few places have this as a requirement, although its a good idea. the problem comes back to the bios pass. If there is no bios pass you just enable it again.

      The storage also doesn’t require booting anything. You could simply plug in the keyboard for use as a thumb drive, not to mention the fun to be had with U3 hacks.

      General rule of thumb, if somones got physical acess to your racks/datacenter then you’ve already been pwn’d!

      Currently the keyboard is in the process of having a lipo battery installed to combat power issues. Using a multi port usb cable (think Y cable) I’m able to use all the internals without power issues.

      Someone mentioned a beagle board being included, you may like to know I’ve been considering that or a pandaboard after I get lipo’s installed :)

  9. Fun fact: The Model M uses a membrane to detect switching. Therefore, you can replace the old controller with a modern controller that uses far less power, as long as it’s one that can be reflashed to use the Model M’s matrix.

    (This also works if you want to convert it to use protocols other than PS/2 or USB. Such as bluetooth, which has been done.)

  10. I recently aquired a (old) IBM model m keyboard. These things are awesome for typing as the buttons provide just the right amount of pressure. If you’re stil using rubber dome switches…I suggest giving a mechnical switch keyboard a try. This guy’s hack is pretty cool but like others have said the model m takes alot of juice…and it might not be the best idea to put it and alot of other things on the same usb line.

  11. I’m working on a newer low power model on updated keyboards and have been working on mapping key matrix for the M to make low power pcb. Keep the ideas rolling in folks, soon enough you may find your input a reality!

  12. The Model M is the most awesome keyboard ever made, full stop. It’s always fun to see the creative mods people come up involving them.

    Years ago, when I realized how much better the Model M was to everything else on the market, I bought a spare, plus an extra cable, just in case. A decade later, the original is still going strong, so… maybe it’s time to modify that, myself. Hmmn…

  13. >The Model M is the most awesome keyboard ever made, full stop.

    Hmmm, ever type on an OmniKey/Ultra?

    I’m not saying it’s better, but it’s at least as good. The keyboard layout is slightly different. and the power cord is by default much longer.

    I’m not sure about the power usage. I do the “two resistors” power hack on my model-m keyboards and prefer the keyboard layout on the IBM style nowadays.

  14. nice
    also im prity sure theres a couple posts about people doing this with mice, throwing in wifi and bootable thumb drives, couple posts about usb hardware you plug in that watchs for keystrokes, allways a security hole with wireless keyboards, gd hack to know of non the less ^_^

  15. Damn, I used to love my Model M’s. I even had one that was rebranded to AT&T that had brightly colored keys for different Alt functions. I have never seen one like it again…

  16. The 122-key terminal Model F is where it’s at, though, as far as awesome. Far nicer tactility than the cheap knockoff (no, really, the Model M was meant for cost savings) that is the Model M, and the keys feel lighter despite the sharper tactility.

    Soarer has code to use any XT, AT, PS/2, or IBM terminal keyboard that uses “set 3” (basically, the AT and PS/2 protocol, but with different scan codes) here: http://geekhack.org/showwiki.php?title=Island:17458

    Add a Teensy 2.0 and a IBM Model F 122-key, and you have a USB 122-key Model F.

    And, there’s more room inside that case than there is in the Model M, for all of your nefarious and not-so-nefarious experiments. (Power will be an issue, though, as the Model F is even older, higher power consumption tech than the Model M.)

  17. > Hmmm, ever type on an OmniKey/Ultra?

    Indeed. :) I’m in Minnesota, where Northgate used to be based. Come to think of it, I might even have an Omnikey in the attic, in a pile of old early PC, Tandy, SUN, and SGI keyboards.

    Good keyboards, no doubt about it. For my money, though, the iconic and ubiquitous Model M is in some intangible way superior – better ergonomics, perhaps.

    They’re both vastly superior to any of the modern IBM/HP/Dell/Cherry keyboards I’ve used, though…

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