Chch firm updates keyboard snoop

A Christchurch company says it is about to launch a device that might have stopped WINZ staff from stealing $1 million in benefits, though it's probably more suited to spy agencies.

A Christchurch company says it is about to launch a device that might have stopped WINZ staff from stealing $1 million in benefits, though it’s probably more suited to spy agencies.

The three-year-old Interface Security, formerly known as Keyghost, says its same-name key-logging product is used by corporates and defence agencies around the world.

Keyghost is a hardware tool that fits inside or on to a PC and records everything typed in it. It can be used for personal back-up if a PC crashes, and for auditing and security. It will record up to two million keystrokes without the aid of batteries and works for a range of languages.

The new version, Keyghost Radio, is set for official launch next month -- but not to the general public. The device uses a radio link inside the recording unit inside the keyboard. It downloads recorded keystrokes and can transmit them up to 250m to a handheld receiver, which plugs into a computer to display what has been typed.

Co-developer Greg Bacchus says because it allows the remote downloading of data, Keyghost Radio is best suited for government spy agencies and others carrying out large crime investigations. It could be used by WINZ to monitor staff, he says, though the government department has not approached the company, he says. It was recently reported that nearly $1 million in benefits has been stolen by 28 WINZ staff over the past two years (see Data analysis keeps eye out for Winz fraud).

Keyghost's customers are mainly defence and government agencies in the US and Europe. They also include the banking sector, but few New Zealand organisations. Bacchus says he cannot identify any customers "for security reasons".

Other firms have also been buying Keyghost to monitor staff internet use and even to see if staff are “having internet affairs in chatrooms”, he says. Home user versions are also available.

Over the past year, the firm has had “a big marketing push,” attending trade shows in Canada, the US and Europe. It recently received $9456 funding from the Ministry of Economic Development’s Enterprise Award scheme to help fund its presence.

The company’s largest market is the US, but it also claims interest in its products from Russia and the Middle East, helped by the availability of Hebrew and Arabic versions of Keyghost.

The idea for it, says Bacchus, came when he and several others at university thought of developing a device that recorded keystrokes because it was annoying when computers crashed and data was lost.

But it is security and auditing concerns that seem to be driving the company’s growth, from four founding partners, to 12 staff today. Revenue growth of 50% is expected this year, giving annual turnover of around $1 million in 2002.

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