Skip to main content

Plug the USG into your port before you plug in that new USB flash drive

usg protects against usb based malware usage diagram header
Robert Fisk
A number of nasty methods exist to remotely exploit a device, for example, a router that is connected to the internet. There are even more ways to exploit a PC if the cybercriminal has physical access to it. But the most embarrassing, perhaps, is when you infect your own PC by plugging in a malware-infested USB flash drive.

That is probably not terribly fair — anyone can be tricked into plugging in such devices, given that they are designed to look just like any other flash drive. And there is little you can do to protect yourself against them, which is something a new hardware firewall called USG is intended to help prevent, Hackaday reports.

The reason malware-infected USB flash drives are so dangerous is that devices using attacks like BadUSB inject their malicious code directly into the USB driver software that enables a PC to connect to a USB device. The code is executed by the USB device’s own microprocessor, meaning there is no virus file being accessed on the PC that antivirus software can recognize and protect against.

The USG device created by engineer Robert Fisk sits in between the PC’s USB port and any device that is going to be plugged in, inserting an SPI hardware firewall to isolate any bad USB device. Because the firmware of the USG device is completely open, anyone with the technical know-how can dig into it and verify that it can be trusted — something that’s just not possible with the typical USB flash drive.

According to some sources, even factory-fresh USB flash drives can’t be assumed free of malware, backdoors, and other nefarious purposes, and so a device like the USG could one day be more than just a luxury of the paranoid. Fisk provides details on how to build your own USG device, along with information on how and why it works. He also sells a version that is more professional in appearance for $60, in case you don’t have the time or technical inclination to build your own.

Updated on 3-6-2017 by Mark Coppock: Clarified that the USG is an SPI hardware firewall and updated pricing information.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Coppock
Mark has been a geek since MS-DOS gave way to Windows and the PalmPilot was a thing. He’s translated his love for…
NordVPN free trial: Try the service for free for a month
The best VPN for Mac is NordVPN.

VPNs can offer a lot of great advantages depending on what sort of things you want to do. For example, if you're traveling and still want to watch content from back home, they can offer you a way to get around geoblocking that tends to happen. Alternatively, they can help protect you against man-in-the-middle attacks that aim for your identity information, such as online passwords or even credit card numbers, which is especially an issue if you tend to connect to public Wi-Fi networks. While they aren't perfect security tools, they're a great addition to make your life easier, especially since some of the best VPNs include a whole suite of products, including ad blockers.

VPNs are premium subscription services though, meaning they're not free (well, some are, but you probably shouldn't use them).  VPN deals can cut some cash off the price tag, but there's only one way to get one absolutely free -- free trials. NordVPN is one of the best VPN services, so the NordVPN free trial is very popular. It's great for security, and it's the best VPN for Netflix. Read on to learn how you can take advantage of the NordVPN free trial.
Is there a NordVPN free trial?

Read more
The most common Microsoft Teams problems and how to fix them
A close-up of someone using Microsoft Teams on a laptop for a videoconference.

Microsoft Teams was introduced in 2017 as a unified communication and collaboration platform aimed at helping businesses and organizations get things done. Microsoft leveraged the company's existing Office software experience and created a unified experience between Teams, Office 365, and Skype for Business. However, as with all software, things don't always go according to plan. Sometimes you can run into Teams problems.

We're big Teams users here at Digital Trends -- it's our go-to communication and meeting tool -- and we've come across a few issues ourselves over the years. In the event you're having Microsoft Teams issues, here's how to fix some of the most common problems.

Read more
How to tell if your webcam has been hacked
Razer webcam sitting on top of a monitor.

Having your webcam hacked is a terrifying prospect for many -- and a good reason to use a dedicated webcam cover. Not only does it represent an incredible invasion of privacy, but it has the potential to grab biometric data and other personal information that could be used to further expose you and steal your identity.

Often a hacked webcam is just part of a comprehensive malware assault, though, so protecting yourself against it involves having some of the best antivirus protection you can, while keeping your system updated. Even with robust protections in place, though, you should always keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs of a hacked webcam. Here's what to look out for.
The light on your webcam turns on at strange times

Read more