Your HP laptop might be spying on you. Here's what to do

CLOSEyour-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 1your-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 2TECH TIPS AND NEWS4 ways to prevent ransomware attacks | 0:57

These simple steps will help keep your computer from becoming the next ransomware target. USA TODAY

1 of 4CLOSEyour-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 3your-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 4TECH TIPS AND NEWSHow web tracking pieces together your identity | 1:32

These days, web browsers even give up information about the hardware your computer is running. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

2 of 4CLOSEyour-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 5your-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 6TECH TIPS AND NEWSThese tech things are a waste of money | 1:35

Renting your router, or relying on computer tune-up software? Columnist Kim Komando explains why you could do with your cash instead.

3 of 4CLOSEyour-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 7your-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 8TECH TIPS AND NEWSNew laptop bombs might sneak through airport screening | 0:40

Recent FBI testing has uncovered potential vulnerabilities in airport screening that could miss explosives planted in laptop computers. USA TODAY

4 of 4Last VideoNext Video

  • your-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 9 4 ways to prevent ransomware attacks
  • your-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 10 How web tracking pieces together your identity
  • your-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 11 These tech things are a waste of money
  • your-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 12 New laptop bombs might sneak through airport screening

your-hp-laptop-might-be-spying-on-you-heres-what-to-do photo 13

Some HP laptops may have a keylogging problem.(Photo: Getty Images)

How can I check to see if my HP laptop has the key-tracking problem?

A recent discovery by Swiss security firm Modzero exposed a major security problem in a large number of HP laptops.  They found that an audio driver that was "listening" for specific "hotkeys" was also recording every keystroke and storing them in an unprotected log file.

Often referred to as "keylogging," this type of activity is usually associated with nefarious programs that try to steal passwords or other sensitive credentials by recording all your keystrokes.

In HP’s case, there’s nothing indicating that anyone was remotely capturing the keystrokes contained in the log files; It’s more of a major mistake made by the company that provided HP with the software.

Who’s at risk?

Conexant is a primary supplier of audio componentry to most of the major laptop manufactures as well as devices like Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), but this particular issues appears to be isolated to specific HP laptops.

They inadvertently left special debugging code active in the final driver provided to HP, which can potentially be exploited in a number of ways because every keystroke you make — even if you can’t see the character as you type — is being captured to this unprotected file.

It’s the digital equivalent of your computer "talking in its sleep"; any program that cares to "listen" could make use of this extremely sensitive information.

Owners of any of HP’s Elite, EliteBook, ProBook or ZBook models from 2015 and 2016 should check their computers for the bug.

How to check your laptop

The following steps may be a bit technical for some, but it’s too important to ignore, so make sure you get help from a trusted technical resource.

Different model laptops exhibit different behaviors, but many of the most common models will have created this log file in the following location: C:UsersPublicMicTray.log.

If your computer has this log file and you can see data in it when you open the file, your computer has the problem.

If you see the file with no data in it, you’re still not in the clear as the debug output could still be exposing your keystrokes to other programs or it will be empty if you just logged into your computer.

To check for leaking keystrokes, you can run Microsoft’s while typing random characters on your keyboard to see what is being captured.  If you see any lines in DebugView that refers to "Mic target," your computer is operating with the defective audio driver.

How to kill the keylogger

Both HP and Microsoft have released updates to fix the problem, so if you regularly keep your computer updated, you may have already fixed the problem.

HP laptop owners that want to make sure they have the updated audio driver can go to in the "Support" section of their website.

This logging behavior goes back to October, so even if you have fixed the problem, your old backups could contain old log files. Make sure you search for and delete any instance of the MicTray.log file in any of your backups as well.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services . Ask any tech question at:  or on Twitter .

Article Your HP laptop might be spying on you. Here's what to do compiled by

Recommended stories

Relax Your HP laptop might be spying on you. Here's what to do stories

More stories

Impeachment proceedings need to start now

The House needs to start digging now into the Trump administration’s abuses of power and Trump’s blatant violations of his oath faithfully to execute the office of president.

Are charges in Amtrak crash about justice or headlines?

Unlike judges, prosecutors are bound by rules of ethics that require them to only bring charges when they have good reason to believe they can prove each element of a crime. When that evidence is insufficient, they are ethically bound to decline prosecution.

Life in Pa. burbs just like in N.Y. -- kind of

Everyone starts by sleeping in and then competing for sections of the newspapers over breakfast. After that, they like to exercise. Biking is popular, as are personal-trainer visits. We like to exercise, too. We do stair-climbing. On our own stairs.