Are Web Configurators with WebHID Safe?

Web configuration security.
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Privacy and security are concerns that get expressed when we talk to people about configuringtheir devices in a web browser.

It’s one of the reasons why technologies like WebHID haven’t really taken off: People are a bitscared about ‘putting their hardware online’. They think that web based configurators are justasking for trouble. We often get questions like:

If I don’t have an Internet connection, will my device stop working?How do I know you aren’t logging my keyboard activity?

Am I being tracked when I use the online configurator?

In order to put rumors to rest, and so the open source community can verify exactly what’s going on behind the scenes, we’ve created this article to explain how you can tell if your web configurator and WebHID hardware are safe to use.

Where is the WebHID Configuration Stored?

You might be surprised to discover, at least with the Hakkei WebHID configurator, that your information is not stored in the Cloud. Open source gurus will be able to verify this.

That’s a feature that we can make available later, if users wish to opt into it. But for the moment, your device’s WebHID configuration is stored in the hardware device’s non-volatile memory.In other words, a Hakkei WebHID keyboard would permanently store the configuration in memory that is within the keyboard itself.

The browser based configurator is used to edit, organize, and synchronize configurations across your own devices. In a nutshell, we help you to pull your configuration off the hardware edit it, and then save the changed configuration back to the hardware itself.

In time we’ll offer configuration backup services, community configuration sharing forums, and the like. But they’ll all be on an opt-in basis, and you’ll never have to use them if you don’t wish to.

What Does the Online Configurator Track?

Just generic usage statistics. For example, if a lot of people take interest in an obscure feature, we’ll be able to work on enhancing that aspect of the configurator and give it a more major role to play in the future. Or if a lot of people start a complex configuration process and then stop, we’ll know that we need to make it easier to use, and that will be our focus in the future.

The Hakkei WebHID configurator does not store your personal information. We don’t care if you give us a fake E-mail address, we don’t even care if you scramble your browser fingerprint. In fact, as security and privacy conscientious developers, we encourage you to use robust privacy suites when you’re online!

We literally only care about how easy, how hard, or how popular / unpopular our configurator features are, so that we can make them better. We track UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) data anonymously so that we know what enhancements we need to make in future versions of the product.

Again, the open source community should be able to verify these things. It’s one of the reasons why our core web functionality is available for anyone to examine: Real transparency.

What Happens if I Don’t Have an Internet Connection?

You should be able to use the last known good configuration of your keyboard with no problems. An always-on connection isn’t ever required to use a Hakkei hardware product.

There’s no ‘regular check ins’ required, there’s no weird encryption key that needs to be validated on the Internet. You use your stuff how you see fit, and if you want to update to the latest forward and configurator software, do so at your leisure.

If you want to do product registration online, you can. If you want to reconfigure your keyboard or other hardware device online, you can. Yes, even from a mobile device. But you’re never forced to. Your hardware won’t get bricked, and you can continue to use your WebHID device without a driver and without worry.

Other Benefits to Open Source WebHID Configurators

To answer the questions about keyboard logging, forced remote administration, and other privacy and security details: Open source means there’s nothing to hide. The developer community would immediately sound the alarm if we were doing anything fishy, or if our configurator even had the capability to do something fishy. There’s also a lot of built in protection with WebHID, which we can address in a future article if there’s a lot of interest in the subject.

Why WebHID Configurators Instead of OS Drivers?

This is really the crux of the issue. We believe that web based configurators have three aspects that are superior to traditional drivers and app-based configuration programs: Accessibility, Utility, and Efficiency.

Unlike online driver repositories, which don’t necessarily contain the official drivers from the hardware manufacturer, our configurator is a one-stop-shop. You always know that your firmware is legit. You never have to worry that the driver is actually a piece of malware hosted by some shady site. You’ll never get bugged by an auto-updater that wants you to download yet another piece of software just so that you can use your input devices.

And of course, how many of those device drivers are open source? How many of the Windows or Mac hardware configuration programs are open source? Do they even have customization options for iOS and Android mobile devices?

With the Hakkei WebHID configurator, you choose the operating system you want to use. You are in complete control. And the open source community can serve as a watchdog to make sure that we aren’t changing our tune behind your back.

The Final Word

We want every Hakkei product to be used with your safety and privacy in mind. As we build our community, we’re conscious of the fact that some people just want great hardware and flexible configuration software... and to be left alone. We respect that!

Rest assured that any community features that we implement in the future, from hardware configuration sharing to Cloud based configuration storage and retrieval, to accessory design and configuration, will be entirely optional.

And we’ll continue to take feedback from the open source community in order to improve our product, and address any privacy and security concerns that crop up over the years. This is our promise to all of our beloved clients.

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