Adam Caudill and Brandon Wilson, a pair of security researchers, published code that could be used to exploit a security flaw dubbed BadUSB.
BadUSB, which was detailed earlier this year by researchers from German firm SR Labs, could be exploited to infect a computer with malicious code and software. However, SR Labs stopped short of releasing code to the public as Caudill and Wilson did. SR Labs opted not to release code in order to give companies that make firmware which controls USB devices time to figure out how to combat the threat posed by BadUSB.
Caudill and Wilson believe that by releasing the code to the public, it could force tech firms to scramble and tighten security on USB devices at a faster rate.
While speaking with the BBC, Karsten Nohl of SR Labs said that this move could have the desired effect, but also warned that addressing such a problem is a bit more complex than one might think.
“In the case of BadUSB, however, the problem is structural,” he said. “The standard itself is what enables the attack and no single vendor is in a position to change that.”
What can a hacker do with BadUSB?
A flash drive with BadUSB loaded onto it, when inserted into a computer, can act has a virtual keyboard. This then permits a hacker to execute malicious commands. BadUSB can also infect controller chips in USB devices which are hooked up to that system.
A USB stick with BadUSB on it can also behave like a network card, and redirect a target’s traffic to malicious websites. Plus, during bootup, a BadUSB-loaded flash or external hard drive can infect a computer’s operating system with a virus before it finishes booting up. These are just a handful of ways that BadUSB can make things miserably for you and your computer.
BadUSB isn’t easily uprooted either, unfortunately.
“Cleanup after an incident is hard: Simply reinstalling the operating system – the standard response to otherwise ineradicable malware – does not address BadUSB infections at their root,” SRLabs says. “The USB thumb drive, from which the operating system is reinstalled, may already be infected, as may the hardwired webcam or other USB components inside the computer.”
Right now, your best defense against BadUSB is to be completely sure that any USB device you plug into your computer comes from a trusted source.
It will be interesting to see what happens now that the code is out there for anyone to download.