Only Half of USB Devices Have an Unpatchable Flaw, But No One Knows Which Half

First, the good news: that unpatchable security flaw in USB devices first brought to light over the summer affects only about half of the things you plug into your USB port. The bad news is it’s nearly impossible to sort out the secure gadgets from the insecure ones without ripping open every last thumb drive.

Hacking by USB Devices

At the PacSec security conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, hacker Karsten Nohl presented an update to his research on the fundamental insecurity of USB devices he’s dubbed BadUSB. Nohl and his fellow researchers Jakob Lell and Sascha Krissler have analyzed every USB controller chip sold by the industry’s eight biggest vendors to see if their hack would work against each of those slices of silicon. The results: Roughly half of the chips were immune to the attack. But predicting which chip a device uses is practically impossible for the average consumer.


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