When most people think about malware, they think about files on their computer, visiting shady websites, or downloading questionable software.

A keyboard and mouse rarely enter the equation because most people simply don’t consider them to be vulnerabilities. 

Almost all desktop and laptop computers are capable of using a mouse and most people, even those with laptops, will attach a USB or wireless mouse from time to time.

That’s a lot of mouse usage among computer users so should we be worried about a mouse getting a virus?

A hacker holding a computer mouse

Can A Computer Mouse Be Infected With Malware?

While it’s not the most common thing, a mouse can be infected by a virus. On one hand, the mouse can be infected preinstallation to deliver the virus when plugged in and, on the other hand, a wireless mouse can have its communication with the computer intercepted. 

If your mouse has programmable memory, like a gaming mouse that allows you to program macro buttons, the mouse itself could store and spread malware.

To make matters worse, there are no known defensive mechanisms when it comes to attacks through USB devices. The reason is that all of that well-paid-for malware detection software you purchased can’t detect firmware that is running on USB devices.

The good news is there isn’t really any monetary gain in creating viruses that specifically target hardware like computer mice, but malware can have an effect on the drivers that mice utilize, and this may result in hardware issues like key-swapping or keys not working.

Can A Virus Transfer Through A Wired Mouse?

A virus can transfer through a wired mouse, however, it’s even rarer than the aforementioned vulnerabilities in firmware and drivers installed because of the use of a dongle. In this case, the virus would have to exist on the mouse, disguised as something else.

Netragard is a company that spends most of its time testing security vulnerabilities of different companies, with the idea being to ultimately harden a company’s network infrastructure from attack. 

For the fun of it, Netragard mailed a bunch of computer mice to a particular company and those mice had hidden USB drives built into them. Of course, Netragard was able to infiltrate the company’s system and, in turn, sent out a warning flag to all of us.

The warning is pretty simple: don’t plug a mouse into your computer if you don’t know where it came from.

However, at this point, Netragard’s little exploit for the fun of it is not mainstream. But, that doesn’t guarantee it will remain that way forever more.

Can A Wireless Mouse Get Malware?

If a wireless mouse has enough writable memory, it could technically have a virus lurking inside of its innards. However, it’s not the inside of a wireless mouse that you have to worry about most often, but the communication going on between the mouse and the USB dongle. 

Malware attacks on your computer typically don’t take the time to target your mouse as the much more important target is the financial or private information on your computer.

A wireless mouse is more like a component of a tool, with the whole tool’s corruption being necessary for accessing your computer against your will.

How Do I Know If My Mouse Has A Virus?

In the aforementioned Netragard instance, the computer mice arrived with physically installed USB drives inside of them. With wireless mice, the infiltration method occurs via capturing the signal between the mouse and the USB dongle. 

What we’re trying to say here, is that the first instance is so new and rare that you’re highly unlikely to have any idea that your mouse has something hidden inside of it before you plug it into your computer for the first time.

Related Article: Can a TV Get a Virus from a USB? (And What To Do)

In the second instance, the hack is conducted while you are actively using your mouse on your computer. You may be able to quickly discover that someone is hijacking the communication protocol between your mouse and dongle, but by then, it’s probably too late. 

You’re most likely going to know once things begin to affect your computer. For that, there are signs and, if you’re paying attention, you can figure out what’s going on even if you don’t understand the inception. 

  • Your computer’s performance begins to suffer
  • Your computer loses some or all functionality
  • Your computer starts downloading malicious software
  • Internet browser automatically redirects you to shady websites
  • You notice that your checking account is taking a nosedive
  • Some of your files are disappearing or new and unrecognized files are now on your computer
  • Pop-up windows all the time and mostly unexpected
  • Email is getting blown up with spam
  • Storage is filled up quickly

All of these things have everything to do with your computer having a virus, not necessarily your mouse. However, your mouse could have been the point of ingress for whatever malicious program is now running amok on your computer.

What Is A MouseJacking Virus?

The Mousejacking virus is a virus that affects wireless keyboards and mice. More specifically, it affects wireless peripherals that communicate via non-Bluetooth methods. Mousejacking is not so much a virus as it is a method of attack, by the use of a cheap device that seeks wireless packets to exploit. 

Let’s say that you are using a wireless mouse on your home computer. The wireless mouse you use is not a Bluetooth device but communicates through a radio frequency at 2.4GHz. 

Your mouse delivers and receives information in packets, whether that is a left-click, right-click, a simple scroll of the wheel, or moving the mouse across the pad. Those packets of information are delivered to the USB dongle, which transmits that information to your computer, where the info is unpacked and executed.

A hacker, parked across the street, less than a hundred meters away, and using a $15 USB device, can search for the frequency your mouse uses. Once your mouse is located, the device begins to impersonate your mouse, delivering packets of its own, all filled with the malicious bit of code. 

From this point on, the hacker has several tools at their disposal, in terms of what they can do.

  • Begin recording your keystrokes
  • Send keystrokes to your computer as if you are typing them
  • Install rootkits
  • Install malware
  • Access your active directory and compromise your network
  • Take complete control
  • Create new users

As you can see, what it essentially means is that all of your personal and financial information, indeed your computer and anything else tied into your network, may now be in the hands of someone sitting across the street, in their car.

What’s The Worst That Can Happen If My Mouse Gets A Virus?

While sitting here thinking that losing control of your computer or getting pummeled with a DoS (Denial of Service) attack, spam, or malware is the worst thing that can happen, it isn’t.

It’s one thing to lose your computer and quite another to lose your entire financial livelihood in just a few, short instances.

Since a hacker infiltrating your network in this way is capable of taking complete control, that means complete access. 

All of your banking, credit card information, investments, and other financial portfolios can be drained in a hurry.

What Can I Do To Defend Against Mouse Viruses?

If you happen to own a wireless mouse, the first thing that you need to do is determine whether or not it is a Bluetooth mouse. If it isn’t, the second thing that you need to do is check to see if your mouse was purchased from a vendor that is on the known vulnerability list.

  • AmazonBasics Wireless Mouse MG-0975
  • Dell KM714 Wireless Mouse
  • Dell KM632 Wireless Mouse
  • Gigabyte K7600 Wireless Keyboard
  • HP Wireless Elite Keyboard v2
  • Lenovo Wireless Mouse MS-436
  • Logitech K360, K400r, K750, K830
  • Logitech G900
  • Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse
  • Microsoft Wireless Mouse 5000
  • Lenovo N700 Mouse
  • Lenovo UltraSlim Mouse
  • Lenovo UltraSlim Keyboard
  • Lenovo UltraSlim Plus Keyboard; Mouse

Even if you are using a mouse that isn’t Bluetooth and isn’t on this list, you should at least be cautious. Besides checking your mouse against this list, there are some additional steps you can take to minimize the potential threat.

  • Own antivirus software and automate the checks
  • Only have a single, premium antivirus program
  • Eliminate pop-ups through the Task Manager
  • Keep your installed program software up to date

How Can I Remove A Virus From A Mouse?

In the vast majority of cases, the virus isn’t in the mouse but because of the mouse you are using. Armed with that knowledge, you should only use a wireless mouse if its communication protocol is Bluetooth only. 

If your mouse isn’t Bluetooth, you should strongly consider getting rid of it, even if it’s not on the above list.

Last but not least, only purchase your wired mouse from a reputable retailer. Never hook up a mouse that you just found somewhere or received from someone else.

All Things Considered

While exploiting your mouse is a rare way of getting access to your computer, it is an existing way, which is why you should guard against it by using a wired mouse, Bluetooth mouse, or ensuring that your wireless mouse is not on the above list of vulnerable peripherals. 

A mouse is one of the most basic yet necessary peripheral devices on most computer systems. Don’t add it to the list of vulnerabilities by not exercising caution when you choose your next mouse.