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The new USB port is as vulnerable to malware as the old

The new USB port is as vulnerable to malware as the old

May 13, 2015 6:09 am0 comments

In the presentation of the new MacBook we saw the first application of the new USB Type C connector, which is reversible, easy to use and extremely versatile. Of course, what everyone loved the most was that it could be placed on both sides.

USB virus

Of course, the advantages barely begin here. Higher speed data transmission, more loading capacity for devices … As we say, they’re already included in the new MacBook and the new Chromebook. However, this will allow you to use any other port (such as HDMI, USB classic, or VGA).

Apparently, USB Type C will effectively end up being a market standard. Unfortunately, this defect was already found in classic USB, which came to be called BadUSB. That decision allowed the firmware to be used as a gateway for malware, and in the USB Type C this vulnerability is not only still present but it has even expanded.

Apparently it has more “attack surface”; as explained Karsten Nohl, one of the researchers who discovered this type of attack. “There is no solution to BadUSB in sight, even with the new standard”. The USB is an open standard built on compatibility and easy access by third parties, which entails a serious safety problem with no sign of being solved soon.

In practical terms, this means that MacBook and Chromebook Pixel users are exposed to what is known as a ‘borrowed charger attack’. Though the new chargers do not have the necessary ‘firmware’ to carry the BadUSB malware, it would be easy for an attacker to infect a device and the hole, and it would progressively extend to all compatible devices. At the end of the day, who does not share a USB cable with another person on an almost daily basis?

Although Apple includes chip authentication in all power cords to verify that the firmware has not been changed, the port remains vulnerable to older devices.

If you’ve decided to buy the latest MacBook or the new Chromebook, the best protection is that you avoid connecting a device or charger that you have not purchased yourself. Despite all the benefits these reversible USB ports bring due to their speed and efficiency, there’s still need to improve security to enjoy them all on laptops.

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