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NLBS #42: USB Security Risks In The WIld, and The NSA Involvement

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posted on Mar, 20 2015 @ 07:05 PM
This episode of Next Level BS is inspired by Apple's shiny new Retina MacBook, with it's singular USB 3c port for everything from power to your camera. That's right, one port that requires an $80 dongle to connect anything other than your power cord. And as it turns out, it's one very unsecured port with known exploits already out in the wild. Exploits that can expose all your data, and take over complete control of your computer. So we asked ourselves, haven't we heard something about USB exploits before? Yes we did. “Advanced Network Technology” a division of the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations” has a catalog full of scary tools for the hacker spy, USB exploits included.

NSA ANT Catalog (PDF)

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posted on Mar, 20 2015 @ 07:34 PM
Scary stuff. The PDF really shows how the NSA has perfected these USB exploits.

USBs even look like leeches just preying on your computer, all those pivoting USBs hanging out the back of some PCs..

edit on 20-3-2015 by iFloButta because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 20 2015 @ 07:35 PM
Great show again, Joe. I had no idea about NSA adding things before they got to retailers. I'll be sure to pass this episode on to my friends and family. Thanks for covering that.

posted on Mar, 20 2015 @ 09:11 PM
This is nothing new. "Ease of use" is often inversely proportionate to security concerns. Exploits always follow portable storage. You may be to young to recall new floppy drives coming pre loaded with viruses.

These USB exploits mentioned are pretty old, computer technology is measured in something akin to Dog Years.

Google how to "disable autoplay on USB drives." This may help you. Remember that when you connect your computer to the internet you are giving up a great deal of privacy and opening yourself up to the outside, the only true defense you have is the same defense a sardine has in a school.

As technology continues to evolve the gap between those that understand the technology and those that simply use the technology will widen. These gaps will always be exploitable by those that understand the tech, whether they be criminal or otherwise. For most all you can do is hope that your preventative measures puts the bar of exploitation above the average criminal. You can't protect yourself from the pro.


posted on Mar, 21 2015 @ 01:50 AM
a reply to: Variable

This isn't the autoplay thing though. As you've said, that's been known for ages.

The exploit problem now is how most operating systems handle unrecognized devices. (Because USB could be a joystick, mouse, soundcard, wifi, storage, etc.) What happens is the OS looks for a driver to install on the USB device itself in order to operate it. So the exploit is in the driver file needed to communicate with whatever it is you plugged in. It's still as bad as the old autoplay problem if not worse.

And another level of exploits related to drivers is there are now viruses supposedly out in the wild that can run remotely from the main CPU on various co-processors. (Basically it'll look for an installed device it can exploit and install into that device's firmware.) So in theory the virus could execute on a BIOS chipset, graphics card, soundcard, etc. And of course those things have access to the main memory and processor functions, so viruses that exploit them can potentially cause a lot of harm. When viruses operate in that manner, detecting them with current anti-virus software becomes a lot more difficult if not impossible because the virus tell-tale signatures aren't resident in the main memory or executables.

Maybe both of these hacks aren't brand spanking new, but currently there's not really a good fix for them. Just avoid plugging in any hardware or downloading software from sources you're uncertain of.

posted on Mar, 21 2015 @ 02:52 AM
a reply to: pauljs75

That's the problem with these USB hacks. The exploit has been in the hands of some for years at this point. Any retail hardware you buy can potentially be infected, if not by a hacker group then by a government who may or may not let that information slip to someone.

The NSA found this exploit, then the world learned of it and reproduced it in another brilliant example of how the NSA is making us less safe. It is inherent to all USB technology and cannot truly be fixed other than by using some new technology which will take years if not decades to reimplement.

posted on Mar, 21 2015 @ 08:07 AM
a reply to: pauljs75

Just avoid plugging in any hardware or downloading software from sources you're uncertain of.

The best defense to any unwanted software is to be aware of how your computer operates. The number of precautions you can take is long, but simply understanding what is "normal" goes a long way to keeping you safe. Again, if the attacker is a Pro it will be impossible to stop an attack, as long as you are connected to the web anyway.

I see this every day, you do not need to have a custom made USB stick to infect an idiots computer. They are quite good at going out and finding infections all by themselves. Because something is possible doesn't mean it is likely. In any case, the best security is knowledge and the precautions that come with that knowledge.


posted on Mar, 21 2015 @ 12:17 PM
This thread isn't getting enough attention so I thought I would add my rambling thoughts to all the intelligence above this post.

I was just thinking about back to school sales. Flash drives go on sale very cheap this time of year and if you miss these sales the exact same item can sometimes double in price. I know this is conjecture but, I've been thinking about this since I viewed this video Friday night.
edit on 21-3-2015 by Iamthatbish because: predict a text totally winning

posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 12:49 AM
Yea, it is scary. With every new driver, there is a farm of undetected potential glitches that if totally understood by an engineer or great hack, could be used to compromise the device. The device is cool, but it is really untested in the wild.

posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 11:51 AM

This says it all.

posted on Sep, 15 2023 @ 03:21 AM

off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


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