Think Twice and More Be­fore Shar­ing Your USB Flash Drive

Consumer Voice - - Comparative Product Test -

USB flash drives are a se­ri­ous se­cu­rity risk. They can spread com­puter viruses the way reused nee­dles spread real ones. Ger­man se­cu­rity re­searchers at Se­cu­rity Re­search Labs in Berlin claim that USB-con­nected de­vices have a fa­tal flaw. Any­thing that con­nects via USB can be re­pro­grammed to pose as another de­vice. The re­searchers say that many other types of USB pe­riph­er­als can also spread mal­ware. That means a stranger’s USB stick could dupe your com­puter into think­ing it’s a key­board, then type in cer­tain com­mands and sur­rep­ti­tiously take con­trol of your lap­top. Or it could pose as a net­work card, redi­rect­ing your In­ter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions by chang­ing your DNS set­tings so that some­one could spy on what you’re do­ing. Iden­tity theft, bank fraud, ex­tor­tion – any­thing fol­lows. The re­searchers’ ba­sic the­sis is this: a) Many pe­riph­eral de­vices in­cor­po­rate spe­cial USB-con­troller chips that them­selves can be re­pro­grammed. b) There are no pro­tec­tions in place to pre­vent a ma­li­cious party from ma­nip­u­lat­ing one of th­ese USB

con­troller chips in this way. c) Such a hack could en­able the pe­riph­eral to in­ject mal­ware into your com­puter. The prob­lem is made worse be­cause mod­ern day an­tivirus and pro­tec­tion soft­ware won’t catch it. USB dup­ing isn’t tech­ni­cally a com­puter virus in ac­tion, but just a de­vice cam­ou­flaged as another one. So there’s no so­lu­tion for it right now ex­cept sim­ply bar­ring flash drives. The SRLabs re­searchers Nohl, JakobLell and SaschaKrissler tested with sev­eral types of flash drives as well as An­droid smart­phones, which con­nect to com­put­ers via USB ports. Fun­da­men­tally, the USB flaw ex­ists be­cause of the con­ve­nient na­ture of com­puter univer­sal se­rial bus (USB) ports – they’re univer­sal. They ac­cept all sorts of de­vices -- mouses, mi­cro­phones, prin­ters, etc.

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