Schrodinger’s Keylogger in Chinese Mechanical Keyboard
MantisTek GK2 Mechanical Keyboard

There was this recent news of a model of mechanical keyboards made in China that turned out to have keyloggers illicitly installed in it. Of course, this is scandalous on a potentially global scale due to Chinese products becoming more ubiquitous in the tech space. It’s easy enough to assume that whatever comes out of that place is full of cooties that will make your computer cry out in pain whenever you plug it in.

Chinese mechanical keyboards have taken off in recent years for more budget-conscious consumers who want the benefits of typing with mechanical switches without having to burn money on a Das, Ducky, or Razer. Never mind if they’re Gateron or Kailh switches; as long as they’re tactile and got RGB lights, they’re attractive alternatives to major brands.

This looked to be yet another cautionary tale about goods made in China, the land of my ancestors. However, it turns out there’s more to this tale behind the virtual gasps all over social media.

The Headline (That May Be Clickbait)

The news of a keyboard from China—namely the MantisTek GK2—that sends whatever you type on it to an Alibaba server, wherein code monkeys can sift through your feeble attempts at asking a girl for nudes and the fourth chapter of your garbage NaNoWriMo novel that will never be finished anyway to find your credit card information and PayPal login, does seem plausible.

However, with Chinese tech companies doing their best to secure their place in the fast-paced global tech market, it wouldn’t be a good idea to give customers more reasons to be suspicious of where you’re from. Therefore, it’s worth being skeptical about something like a mechanical keyboard that steals your personal information. It’s not just about being wary of what’s going on, but also understanding why such things happen and why people let them happen. Critical thinking should be a part of being a consumer, after all—caveat emptor.

MantisTek GK2 Mechanical Keyboard

It looks like a nicer version of that Wesdar keyboard sold in CD-R King.

The news was first reported by the usually trustworthy Tom’s Hardware. It’s very much like them to break news on esoteric stuff like this, but it turns out to be more to it than the usual exposé. Someone on Reddit spotted an anomaly with the images presented in the article and the authenticity of the claims were later called into question.

As of this writing, Tom’s Hardware had amended their article with this caveat:

However, in a closer look, it seems that the Cloud Driver software doesn’t send the key presses to the Alibaba server but only how many times each key has been pressed.

So basically, they jumped to conclusions. Not only did their clickbait article fool people into believing a premise that turned out to not be true, but it could’ve also damaged the image of the affordable mechanical keyboard from China in the eyes of ordinary consumers. With mech keyboards becoming more of a coveted item in the mainstream tech world, having budget-friendly options is pretty much a must at this point.

Meanwhile, I hope that Lucian Armasu guy who wrote that Tom’s Hardware article was given either a stern talk or a virtual dressing down for that clickbait garbage.

Better Safe Than Sorry… If You’re a Little Bitch

This is why even with a convincing piece like that Tom’s Hardware article, I would still look for a thread in a forum like Reddit to see what other people think. Perhaps that’s foolhardy since the Internet is a dimension full of toxic sludge pouring out of Satan’s asshole, but there’s still merit in verifying news sources, and conferring with other concerned netizens is a good way to do that.

It’s like that viral rumor on canned food from Thailand that spreads HIV. Your friend’s girlfriend shares the link to spread the word and people try to tell her how HIV doesn’t work like that. She vehemently retorts with “better safe than sorry” and doubles down on it, not willing to admit her mistake. This is the type of shit that raises my blood pressure without fail.

Misinformation and the refusal to admit wrong both frustrate me at a deep level. I myself have shared a few links to fake news on Facebook, but I’ve always acknowledged my failure to verify whenever it was pointed out how shoddy the sources were or if it was actually satirical and it just went over my head. With the prevalence of fake news these days, it’s easy to be fooled even if you’re the most thorough person on earth, and there’s now even less time and incentive to verify every single thing you see.

However, “better safe than sorry” is no excuse for spreading misinformation, even if you have good intentions. It does more harm than good, and you better shape up if you’re the type who likes to leave things at that. With how the world is these days and all the chaos and confusion about on social media, I do hope you’re not adding to the madness.

My Thoughts on the Mechanical Keyboard

I typed up this blog post with a mechanical keyboard I bought in April 2012. It’s a Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Pro with Cherry MX Blue Switches that still serves me well to this day. While its clicky freshness may be long gone and its LEDs are disappointing (I could’ve waited a few more months to purchase the QuickFire Ultimate), but it’s still my daily workhorse.

Ordinary people—peasants, the whole lot of them—think that the mechanical keyboard is an overpriced and unnecessary piece of junk. However, those who are in the know can certainly attest to their quality. Most won’t ever have their hands on the big brands, and that’s understandable. Therefore, the existence of cheaper options from that funny chunk of land in continental Asia is a boon to those who want one but don’t have spare change to get the top-of-the-line peripherals they keep seeing online.

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