Researchers reveal crosstalk USB security threat

USB connections are prone to leaking data, according to a group of researchers from the University of Adelaide.

The researchers are presenting their finding at the USENIX Security Symposium in Canada.

“We have tested over 50 different computers and external hubs and found that over 90% of them suffer from a crosstalk leakage effect that allows malicious peripheral devices located off the communication path to capture and observe sensitive USB traffic,” states the abstract of their paper, USB Snooping Made Easy: Crosstalk Leakage Attacks on USB Hubs.

“We also show that in many cases this crosstalk leakage can be observed on the USB power lines, thus defeating a common USB isolation countermeasure of using a charge-only USB cable which physically disconnects the USB data lines.”

The researchers used a USB-connected novelty lamp to read key strokes from a USB keyboard plugged into an adjacent port using the voltage fluctuations of the port’s data lines. Data was sent to another computer via Bluetooth.

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