A new threat named “BadUSB” has just emerged, a name that may be a bit of an understatement. This exploit is one of the nastiest security threats we have seen in a long time. It’s dangerous, often undetectable and very hard to kill. BadUSB literally leaves current antivirus defenses harmless and blind.
This exploit was discovered by a group of white hat hackers that plan to showcase their discoveries at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, which takes place next week. But what exactly does this threat do, and what makes it so hard to deal with? It’s its very nature that makes it no average threat.
BadUSB literally leaves current antivirus defenses harmless and blind
BadUSB doesn’t simply infect your computers, it infects most USB devices that are connected to it. This includes odd peripherals like web cams, keyboards and many other types of USB devices. Sadly, this does include Android smartphones, which could be turned into malicious network cards. These smartphones, when connected to computers, would fool the user into connecting to malicious pages that impersonate popular websites like Facebook and Google.
Because this hack bakes itself into USB devices, it is nearly impossible to clean without taking extreme measures, like disassembling infected devices and reverse-engineering them. Trying to wipe the infection with an anti-virus will also be useless, since this hack affects devices’ very firmware. For the same reason, simply formatting, say, a USB flash drive will do nothing. This process only cleans the storage, not the firmware.
“The next time you have a virus on your computer, you pretty much have to assume your peripherals are infected, and computers of other people who connected to those peripherals are infected.” -Karsten Nohl, chief scientist at Security Research Labs
It turns out using USB devices does much more than just allow a connection to your computer. It opens a portal and gives peripherals excessive access to your hardware and software. Nohl explains using a USB device is much like saying “here’s my computer; I’m going to walk away for 10 minutes. Please don’t do anything evil.”
Knowing it affects Android makes us raise an eyebrow, but it seems this exploit is not very widely known yet. Its unveiling at next week’s convention may spark a chain of projects that could protect us in the future.