With BadUSB, hackers can make your USB devices turn against you

badusb hackers can make usb devices turn srlabs blackhat 2014
Imagine malware that can take control of your keyboard, mouse, and webcam. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Now, picture your PC coming across this malware which, oh by the way, is virtually undetectable. Hugging yourself in the corner and crying yet? This isn’t a hypothetical scenario either.

It’s real, and it’s called BadUSB.

According to SRLabs, a security research firm based in Germany, BadUSB can be loaded on any USB flash drive, and because it runs on a flash drive that’s connected to a target computer as opposed to the computer itself, it’s virtually undetectable to anti-malware programs installed on that machine.

MORE: Meet Bleep, BitTorrent’s anti-NSA chat and messaging app

SRLabs says that a flash drive with BadUSB, when inserted into a computer, can act has a virtual keyboard, permitting a hacker to run malicious commands. It can also infect the controller chips inside other USB devices that are connected to the same computer. The stick with BadUSB on it can also behave like a network card and redirect a target’s traffic to malicious websites. On top of that, during bootup, a BadUSB-loaded flash or external hard drive can infect a computer’s operating system with a virus before it even completes the process of booting up. These are just some of the ways that BadUSB can ruin your life.

MORE: Best free firewalls for Windows and Mac

Treating such an infection is also not a simple matter of unplugging the USB devices from your system and/or reformatting your hard drive 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.” SRLabs also notes that a BadUSB device could even replace your computer’s BIOS. Yikes.

Your best defense against such an attack would be to never accept or plug in a USB flash drive that you got from someone you don’t trust. Also, as ExtremeTech (somewhat humorously, we assume) notes, when it comes to mice and keyboards, there’s always the possibility of going back to PS/2 devices, assuming your PC’s motherboard has those ports. Strangely enough, we’ve seen high-end gaming PCs ship with PS/2 ports in them even today, like the Maingear Vybe Z97, which we reviewed recently.

SRLabs will be releasing proof-of-concept tools on August 7, which will be demoed at the BlackHat 2014 conference next week.


Windows 10 user activity logs are sent to Microsoft despite users opting out

Windows 10 Privacy settings may not be enough to stop PCs from releasing user activity data to Microsoft. Users discovered that opting out of having their data sent to Microsoft does little to prevent it from being released.

How you can give your PS4 a fresh start with a factory reset

Learn the many ways you can factory reset your PS4. From reverting your settings to factory to doing a full wipe and reinstalling the latest PlayStation firmware, we cover it all here, step by step.

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.

Why limit yourself to one OS? Try one of these great virtual machine apps

Buying a new computer just because you want to utilize another operating system isn't necessary. Just use the best virtual machine applications to emulate one OS inside another, no matter what your platform or budget is.

These are the 5 best free antivirus apps to protect your MacBook

Malware protection is more important than ever, even if you eschew Windows in favor of Apple's desktop platform. Thankfully, protecting your machine is as easy as choosing from the best free antivirus apps for Mac suites.

Intel's discrete graphics will be called 'Xe,' IGP gets Adapative Sync next year

Intel has officially dubbed its discrete graphics product Intel Xe, and the company also provided details about its Gen11 IGP. The latter will include adaptive sync support and will arrive in 2019.

Intel answers Qualcomm's new PC processors by pairing Core and Atom in 'Foveros'

Intel has announced a new packaging technology called 'Foveros' that makes it easier for the company to place multiple chips together on one package. That includes chips based on different Intel architectures, like Core and Atom.

Razer’s classic DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse drops to $40 on Amazon

If you're looking to pick up a new gaming mouse for the holidays, Amazon has you covered with this great deal on the classic Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse with customizable buttons, RGB lighting, and a 16,000 DPI optical sensor.

Intel's dedicated GPU is not far off -- here's what we know

Did you hear? Intel is working on a dedicated graphics card. It's called Arctic Sound and though we don't know a lot about it, we know that Intel has some ex-AMD Radeon graphics engineers developing it.

Firefox 64 helps keep your numerous tabs under control

Mozilla officially launched Firefox 64 by placing new features into the laps of its users including new tab management abilities, intelligent suggestions, and a task manager for keeping Firefox's power consumption under control.

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.

Apple MacBook Air vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

The MacBook Air was updated with more contemporary components and a more modern design, but is that enough to compete with standouts like Microsoft's Surface Pro 6 detachable tablet?

Installing fonts in Windows 10 is quick and easy -- just follow these steps

Want to know how to install fonts in Windows 10? Here's our guide on two easy ways to get the job done, no matter how many you want to add to your existing catalog, plus instructions for deleting fonts.

Email take-backsies! Gmail's unsend feature is one of its best

Everyone has sent a message they wish they could take back. How great would it be if you could undo that impulsive email? If you're a Gmail user, you can. Here's how to recall an email in Gmail.