USBee: Air-gap covert-channel via electromagnetic emission from USB

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

70 Scopus citations

Abstract

In recent years researchers have demonstrated how attackers could use USB connectors implanted with RF transmitters to exfiltrate data from secure, and even air-gapped, computers (e.g., COTTONMOUTH in the leaked NSA ANT catalog). Such methods require a hardware modification of the USB plug or device, in which a dedicated RF transmitter is embedded. In this paper we present 'USBee,' a software that can utilize an unmodified USB device connected to a computer as a RF transmitter. We demonstrate how a software can intentionally generate controlled electromagnetic emissions from the data bus of a USB connector. We also show that the emitted RF signals can be controlled and modulated with arbitrary binary data. We implement a prototype of USBee, and discuss its design and implementation details including signal generation and modulation. We evaluate the transmitter by building a receiver and demodulator using GNU Radio. Our evaluation shows that USBee can be used for transmitting binary data to a nearby receiver at a bandwidth of 20 to 80 BPS (bytes per second).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2016 14th Annual Conference on Privacy, Security and Trust, PST 2016
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Pages264-268
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9781509043798
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016
Event14th Annual Conference on Privacy, Security and Trust, PST 2016 - Auckland, New Zealand
Duration: 12 Dec 201614 Dec 2016

Publication series

Name2016 14th Annual Conference on Privacy, Security and Trust, PST 2016

Conference

Conference14th Annual Conference on Privacy, Security and Trust, PST 2016
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
CityAuckland
Period12/12/1614/12/16

Keywords

  • Air-gap
  • USB
  • covert channel
  • exfiltration
  • malware

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety Research
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

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