BadUSB malware potential to infect PCs

BadUSB malware potential to infect PCs

Security researchers Jakob Lell and Karsten Nohl created a malware programme last summer, known as BadUSB, with the intention of highlighting security issues around USB devices. Now, they have further demonstrated their  talents at the Las Vegas-based Black Hat show.

The pair planted malicious code in USB devices, demonstrating how easy it would be for hackers to employ the same tactic, thereby taking over user’s PCs and direct web traffic.

Further highlighting the issue, Context Industrial Security’s Michael Toecker gave a talk at a Kaspersky conference held in Cancun recently, when he explained how it is possible such systems can be manipulated via USB-to-serial connections by installing firmware containing malicious code.

Toecker explained:

“Engineers trust these [serial] connections more than Ethernet in ICS. If they have a choice, they pick serial vs Ethernet, because they trust that.

“What engineers don’t see is that bump in the wire that could be programmed maliciously, Telnet over two wires. That’s what I thought of when I heard about BadUSB.”

The security expert bought numerous different converters over the web and put his theory to the test, taking each device apart before trying to insert malicious code into the internal chips. While he failed with 75 per cent of the devices he tested, he explained that those with which he was successful highlight the degree of risk they carry.

Businesses are especially at risk from USB devices, as all it takes is one employee to infect an entire network by inserting a device containing malicious code. The quicker a virus can be picked up, however, the less damage can be done. This is why it is important for businesses to offer cyber security jobs to the very best security personnel that their staff budget can allow.

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