It's a severe discredit to the major operating system vendors that plugging in a USB stick can still compromise a system.
If a USB device identifies itself as a keyboard, the system shouldn't accept its keystrokes until either that keyboard has typed the user's login password, or the user uses a different input device to authorize it. If it identifies itself as a storage device, the filesystem driver should be hardened. If it identifies itself as an obscure 90s printer with a buggy driver written in C, it should prompt the user to confirm the device type before it loads the driver.
It's 2019. Why the f* haven't Windows, MacOS and Linux all implemented these basic precautions?
>If a USB device identifies itself as a keyboard, the system shouldn't accept its keystrokes until either that keyboard has typed the user's login password, or the user uses a different input device to authorize it.
An interesting solution, it would definitely prompt the user to understand what the device is trying to do.
But I'm sure that it's extremely hard to prevent something malicious, once it has physical access to a port on your computer...
Except for running wacky voltages through your computer, there's no fundamental reason why USB devices should be harder to protect against than malicious network traffic. The model is very similar - in both cases they're serial data transports. USB just uses devices instead of services, and drivers instead of programs.
"An interesting solution, it would definitely prompt the user to understand what the device is trying to do."
But then it could simply wait for the user to enter the password (1), then read it by sniffing the traffic from the keyboard and store it internally for later use, since it's all in clear ad it cannot be encrypted before entering the machine unless most (all) USB consumer hardware get some heavy modifications.
1- very simple algorithm: store in the internal flash memory whatever the user enters between connecting the keyboard and hitting the 2nd enter key; if it's mostly the same words, then it's very likely an user/password pair.
"But I'm sure that it's extremely hard to prevent something malicious, once it has physical access to a port on your computer... "
Very true. Malicious plug in hardware was just a matter of time; we badly need some active protection for these things, or it would be a mess. This is the perfect weapon in the hands of people with a thing for vandalism, I hope mainstream media won't cover that story.
You're assuming the malicious device is a keyboard, or is on the signal path between the motherboard and a keyboard. That's not the common case, nor is it the case here. No one types their password into an iPhone cable, because the cable has no keys to type with.
If you were mailing the cables to random people, you wouldn't use wifi, it's true. You'd just want the fake keyboard to just use a terminal to download and install a trojan.
If you can fire off a successful "curl | bash" on an internet-connected machine, wireless isn't needed.
Of course, without wifi you've only got a USB Rubber Ducky clone  whereas with wifi, you've got an NSA COTTONMOUTH clone  which I imagine is much more likely to get your talk accepted at DEFCON :)
Opening up a terminal while the user is actively using their computer is going to be a huge red flag and give the whole game away. Presumably with a local attack, the attacker will wait until the user is distracted or away from their computer before taking control.
I don't know about other Canadian cities, but in Vancouver, there are both Telus and Shaw hotspots randomly strewn throughout the city. The Telus ones exist in public/government buildings as a co-sponsorship with the municipal government; the Shaw ones exist at the numerous charging stations for bike-share bikes, as a different co-sponsorship. Admittedly, you aren't really likely to run into either if you're not downtown.
Then there's the Shaw hotspots which they expose on a dedicated side-channel of the routers of people who pay for their business Internet plans, which allow arbitrary other Shaw customers with authenticated MAC addresses to connect to them. Those are all over the place, and it'd be pretty easy to steal a list of a few hundred registered MACs and rely on that network to connect.
I'd venture to say those aren't real Ankers. The ones I have are built like tanks. I personally abuse some of my lightning cables, pulling on them, stuffing in bags in a rush, etc. They've lasted years and look new.
Note: I do buy the ones that come with nylon, not sure if that makes a difference.
They are overpriced, but Apple cables have never failed me where others have, so for the peace of mind it is really worth it to me. A couple of anecdotes below.
A few months ago, I had a stock Lenovo laptop charger failing. I thought something was up with the physical port on the laptop, because the power button was blinking when I was plugging it in, but even after an hour of being plugged in, it still refused to turn on. As a last ditch attempt I tried my work-provided MBP cable, and it turned on after a minute. However, since it was a work laptop and not a personal one, it could've been that whoever used the laptop before abused the cable endlessly, so I attributed it to that.
Most recently, it happened with a personal device of mine, Oculus Quest. After a month of use, it refused to charge at all using the provided cable. I tried plugging it in a bajillion different ways, nothing worked. I thought it was a headset issue, because I used the cable very gently and only at home, and people reported that problem occurring and that resetting the headset might help. Obviously, it didn't resolve the issue in my scenario. Plugged it into my personal MBP cable, it started charging immediately.
My opinion is that the Amazon threat vector is overblown. This cable is better suited for inside attackers (friends & family) or for highly targeted attacks.
Amazon reviewers would quickly notice terminal windows pop up on their screens or keystrokes happening at inopportune times, assuming a more advanced exploit isn’t used. (many of these attacks simply try to spawn a terminal window and type commands, a very noisy approach) Scary device regardless, I just think the Amazon vector is overhyped.
If you are a high value target, pay close attention to your supply chain and how you receive packages.
>Amazon reviewers would quickly notice terminal windows pop up on their screens or keystrokes happening at inopportune times
Back in the day sure, but with the way amazon works now I don't think this would be the case. I stopped purchasing items from amazon because one of the things they do is lump "like" or "same" items and reviews together, the only problem is sometimes the items are actually completely different. I've bough electronics, components, cables, and other items from amazon before and then received a similar item but from a completely different brand, manufacturer, seller, etc. When I went back to look at reviews they are all lumped under one page of amazon so you can't get details about a particular product. You can order a cable on a page that's called "apple lightning cable" with reviews for legitimate products but then receive a cheap lightning cable from china with no way to leave a review for that particular product. One way I've found of identifying pages like this is by examining pictures that people upload in reviews, and many times you'll find a variety of products being reviewed/received.
Really need a setting “never trust any device ever”. I’ve never once had a use case with my phone to do anything but charge. Really hate when I plug in my phone to charge in a car and the car takes over my UI. All bad ideas. If I want to move photos I use the network.
Personal opinion: Charging only is what a cigarette adapter is for.
Allowing me to use the car's interface to control my phone is a nice tool. It probably adds to the safety of my driving, since I can skip audio tracks using physical controls on my steering wheel instead of a touch screen.
Do female->male USB-USB power-only passthrough adapters exist? If I could buy a few from a trusted source like directly from the Apple store, I could use it to firewall my cables (never thought I'd have to do that).
As an added bonus, my iphone wouldn't automatically crank up itunes on my mac every single friggin time I plug it into the dock.
Higher power versions of this concept exist that do the data negotiation for your device in response to negotiation from your device. "Plugable USB Universal Fast 1A" is one example, though in my experience, really using it is hit or miss.
I've had better luck using a USB battery to "filter" USB connections in random rental cars.
> Personal opinion: Charging only is what a cigarette adapter is for.
But hardly any new cars have that ….
> Allowing me to use the car's interface to control my phone is a nice tool. It probably adds to the safety of my driving, since I can skip audio tracks using physical controls on my steering wheel instead of a touch screen.
It seemed that paulsutter (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20686844) was suggesting a setting that prevents this automatically for people who never want it, not removing the capability for people like you who do want it.
Android Auto bugs you every time you plug the phone into the car. I had a rental that had it and I was curious to try it since it seemed like something I may want in my next car. It was slow as fuck over bluetooth (a little faster over USB) and offered pretty much nothing more than what a magnetic mount and a bluetooth audio/phone connection would offer. It was 1000x quicker to just bring Waze up on my phone as I'm walking to the car, slap it on the magnet (up high on the dash, adjacent to the screen), and let the bluetooth connect automatically. I deleted the android auto profile and just stuck with regular bluetooth audio/phone.
Yeah, they don't seem to include the cigarette lighters themselves anymore (the plug with the nichrome coil or whatever it is that heats up when pushed in), but the outlets are still there on my most recent car, and every rental car I've driven recently.
It would be nice of my OS had an option to disallow any and all USB devices. Plug something in? Ask whether I want to allow it. I guess this would get annoying after a bit. But still, I only use a couple of USB devices on a daily basis, but I click on boatloads of cookie warnings every day.
> It would be nice of my OS had an option to disallow any and all USB devices
Any desktop computer would have to be redesigned to add a "allow new device" button since they have no other input.
Even on many laptops, the internal keyboard and mouse are USB devices, when you install a new OS, do you have to accept trust to those as well? Or how will you stop an external device from spoofing them with the same vendor/device ID?
How about, trusted peripherals should speak DTLS over their USB/Thunderbolt PHY, and the OS should keep a certificate store for recognizing them?
This sounds like something that creates a chicken-and-egg problem of there not already being any such DTLS-speaking USB devices... but how about if vendors just create a little USB dongle that wraps whatever's plugged into it in "authentication" using DTLS? Ship the dongle with the laptop; tell people that if they want to install a new OS, they have to plug a USB keyboard in through the dongle.
maybe not the exact correct solution (some of those MCUs are wayyyyy too tiny, slow, and stupid for something as complicated as DTLS), but this is not a horrid thought. The bootstrapping problem can be resolved via Microsoft's secureboot certificate and letting the firmware sort out the initial "trusted boot USB sticks" or however.
hell, simply through acquisition and acquiescence, the market already accepted locked-down platforms. at this point, we ought to have more benefits from this instead of just making these platforms hard to install Linux on.
It looked quite promising when I took a look two years ago. There was no support for properly filtering devices that contain multiple endpoints though, like a mouse with mass storage. You could either allow both our none. It was on their roadmap but kept getting postponed iirc. Should take a look again I guess. :-)
At least the user should be informed, meaning it should show the bare minimum to allow us to act upon. Something like "USB keyboard connected: [Device specified name]" for common device types. More complicated/dangerous stuff should only run after user acknowledgement. This way there is at least a significant risk to get caught / chance for the user to catch it.
Not sure if I just mis-configured my windows, but it is certainly lacking on that front. The Settings -> Devices -> USB having just a single checkbox for error popups is probably not a good sign.
Regarding keyboards, maybe at least don't automatically trust a SECOND keyboard? Even when user interaction isn't possible until the device is active, as someone else pointed out, you can at least send a warning to the user's display.
If we're speaking of an iPhone, if you plug one into a CarPlay receiver then it lightly interrupts the phone use. The iPhone gets a big CarPlay splash screen (which you can dismiss), and switching apps on the car display will also switch them on the phone.
This is changing in the upcoming iOS 13, so the car display and the phone will be much more independent. As someone who's often a passenger with their phone plugged in, I'm happy for this.
I've not found many details about how this is actually working — there's some info on his D̴̹̭͂ë̷̗́̃̿̓̾͜ṃ̸͔͚̗̙̪̎̄̋ȏ̸̝̤̱͜n̶͇͇͙̻̩͑͑S̴̳̩̮̥͚̥̚ė̸̟̃͋͂͝e̷̪̲̪̰̣̿̀͠d̵̡̂͗ cable here , but apparently the O.MG cable is "a very different piece of hardware that does a whole lot more."
Does anyone have any insight into how this attack works? My guess is that it acts like a hub that exposes both the iPhone lightning connector and a keyboard/mouse. And then the keyboard/mouse is controllable via some near-range wireless like WiFi or bluetooth? I suppose it could even scan for open networks and try to join to allow a more remote exploit. Anyone find more information anywhere?
I'm guessing the cable has an esp8266 on board which you can get cheaply and is only a few mm2. It has WiFi and WiFi direct support and is powerful enough to run a webserver. Probably there are plenty chips that do the job, but the esp8266 (and its successor esp32) is very popular for custom hardware due to being cheap and easy to program
It says it has a wifi chip. So the attack is limited by that distance.
It probably switches on the Keyboard/Mouse Logic as necessary.
But from there you could play an “Open Terminal” and be quite creative. Don’t know if you could send much information back, but I don’t see why it couldn’t have a few gb of flash storage to copy from/to, e.g. occasional screenshots to see what’s there. Or files.
I have this USB-C looking like this (not the same one though). The thing is whenever it is plugged into my MacBook Pro, the hub starts to overheat, even when there is nothing connected to it. I once tried plugging it into the MBP adapter and charging my phone through the USB port on it, and it did not heat at all.
I am suspecting it is running some program in the background (a miner maybe). Is there a way I can check if such a program is running?
That is not true. It doesn’t involve ionizing radiation, so not a dose risk like CT. But look up PNS and SAR (peripheral nerve stimulation and specific absorption rate), for example. This is mostly handled well for standard pulse sequences of course, but not “zero risk”.
Beyond that, there is a reliance that you do not have any implants etc., even some tattoos. And you tell the truth about it. From the clinics point of view too risky.
I don't think that's what they're especially worried about; those are fairly minor.
Instead, think about interacting with someone who a) is so convinced that they need an exploratory MRI but b) can't convince a doctor of that need. I'd be afraid that either I'll be stuck dealing with someone perseverating over a totally normal anatomical variation (and everyone has a few). If they get sick later, I might also get dragged into a debate over whether I should have noticed something on that scan, done a different scan, or whatever, possibly with big legal implications.
This is why our techs will happily scan a fruit or something, but don't run an ad-hoc clinic.
Nothing is totally risk free, but compared to most medical procedures--and most activities of daily living--MRIs are a walk in the park. For a subject with no implanted devices, I would bet the drive to the scan center is much more dangerous. I just flipped through MAUDE (https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfMAUDE/d...) and I couldn't find any adverse events that were more severe than a small burn or blister.
> The magnetic fields that change with time create loud knocking noises which may harm hearing if adequate ear protection is not used. They may also cause peripheral muscle or nerve stimulation that may feel like a twitching sensation.
> The radiofrequency energy used during the MRI scan could lead to heating of the body. The potential for heating is greater during long MRI examinations.
Minimal, perhaps negligible? Absolutely. Worth risking a license for a mere $3k? Probably not.
CT scans are far more dangerous than MRIs, and yet doctors recklessly schedule CT scans for everything, to the point where they treat you like you're crazy if you try to avoid CT scans. One could argue that every single thing a doctor does has inherent risk to the patient's life, so by your logic, doctors should simply not do anything, ever.
Every single thing they do opens them to a giant slew of malpractice claims. By your logic, doctors should simply not do anything, ever.
I also lied for the sake of brevity. In reality I wanted an MRI in order to look for evidence of diverticulitis. They all said I needed to either get a CT scan or get lost. CT scans are more dangerous than MRIs. Doctors can't possibly be exposed to more malpractice risk from a harmless MRI than from a dangerous CT scan.
Maybe just have something like the USB killer  to "sterilize" cables. Zap the cable with a high voltage/high energy pulse, beyond what normal on-die ESD protection could handle. A bunch of copper and plastic won't get damaged (unless you really get crazy and it arcs over and carbonizes or something), but it will probably burn out any covert semiconductors in the cable. It's hard to absorb high energy pulses in small packages.
which means 50 feet, which is still impressive in that it's a useful distance. I remember the earlier version being more like 5 feet, which sounds pitiful but is still enough. In fact no wifi at all (0 ft) is enough to plant software (CMD-space Terminal RET curl | bash && exit) if you take your chances that the target is inattentive.
I learned of the earlier version here on HN but I can't find the link now. It was maybe 4 months ago?
Given that the attack is that it's a USB keyboard, nothing to do with the lightning aspect, except that the victim is likely to need a lightning cable at some point, any USB dongle will do.
Given the attack methodology for this specific device, of being in visual distance of the victim, just use an unpaired apple keyboard. Macs will automatically pair to them, so you just need to turn it on when the victim looks away (a brief 2-second overlay appears on the screen upon connecting). You could force this by creating a distraction: drop a glass. No dependence then on the victim using the cable.
I saw Kevin Mitnik (FBIs most wanted hacker in the 1990s) at a conference plug one of these into laptop with a fully patched version of Windows 10 and one of the very common security suite of apps.
The laptop was completely compromised in seconds.
From a remote laptop, he had complete access to the target machines full filesystem, started the webcam and turned on the microphone without any notifications to the target user and connected a bluetooth hard drive remotely.
And this was using a rogue cable that he just bought off ebay.
I was honestly shocked at how easy it would be to compromise someones machine. I'll never look at a USB cable the same way.
I think it's just an accident of timing and history.
The old 30-pin connector (inherited from the iPod) had various issues so I think Apple was eager to replace it. The lightning connector was their solution. It predates USB-C by a few years, so that wasn't an option at the time (I guess it might have been on Apple's radar by the time the lightning cable was introduced, but if so, they must have made the call not to wait.)
Since USB-C has made its way to some iPads, my guess is Apple is in the process of phasing out lightning connectors entirely.
If Apple were going to ditch the lightning connector on the iPhone I would have expected them to do it last year.
More generally, the lightning port is actually slightly slimmer than a USB-C port, which is important. While the iPad isn't any thicker than an iPhone, it has squared-off edges, versus the iPhone's rounded edges, so switching the iPhone to USB-C would likely require either making it thicker or making the area around the charge port flat.