The Curious Case of the Curious Case: Detecting touchscreen events using a smartphone case

Tomer Glick, Yossi Oren, Rami Puzis, Asaf Shabtai

SEMS (2017)

Security-conscious users are very careful with software
they allow their phone to run. They are much less
careful with the choices they make regarding accessories such
as headphones or chargers and only few, if any, care about
cyber security threats coming from the phone’s protective
case. We show how a malicious smartphone protective case
can be used to detect and monitor the victim’s interaction
with the phone’s touchscreen, opening the door to keyloggerlike
attacks, threatening the user’s security and privacy. This
feat is achieved by implementing a hidden capacitive sensing
mechanism inside the case. Our attack is both sensitive enough
to track the user’s finger location across the screen, and
simple and cheap enough to be mass-produced and deployed en
masse. We discuss the theoretical principles behind this attack,
present a preliminary proof-of-concept, and discuss potential
countermeasures and mitigations.