SR Labs: USB devices can be tapped by hackers to gain control of PCs

SR Labs: USB devices can be tapped by hackers to gain control of PCs

According to the findings of new research by security experts at Security Research (SR) Labs, the firmware which controls USB functions can potentially be used by hackers for gaining control of computers.

The security vulnerability was discovered by Berlin-based SR Labs' chief scientist Karsten Nohl and security researcher Jakob Lell, when the USB firmware was reverse-engineered. The detection of the flaw by the researchers could represent a completely new class of computer hacks for which there are no defenses.

The researchers said that the security flaw - dubbed 'BadUSB' - can enable hackers to use USB devices like keyboards, thumb-drives and mice to hack into personal computers (PCs); since the widely used USB controller chips have no protection against being reprogrammed.

With regard to the 'BadUSB' security flaw, Nohl explained that malicious software can be loaded by hackers onto tiny, low-cost computer chips which control functions of USB devices, but do not have any built-in protections against tampering with their code.

About potential tapping of USB devices by hackers to take control of PCs, Nohl said: "You cannot tell where the virus came from. It is almost like a magic trick."

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