Preventing Advanced USB attacks

Preventing Advanced USB attacks

Preventing Advanced USB attacks


In an age dominated by digital transformation, organizations must secure themselves against a myriad of threats. Yet, one of the most covert and underestimated dangers lurks in the form of inconspicuous USB devices. USB attack tools, which have evolved considerably in sophistication and stealth, pose significant risks to both data integrity and operational continuity.

Some of our customers have been fortunate enough to encounter them only in their recent PT. Where they were used to demonstrate existing security gaps when dealing with spoofing USB attack tools.

Understanding USB Attack Tools

These malevolent devices, often referred to as USB attacks, manifest in various avatars. From seemingly benign USB dongles to connectors embedded within a computer’s USB-C power supply. Or even stealthily integrated into docking stations, providing remote keylogging, harvesting a user’s login credentials. Their malicious capabilities are diverse and far-reaching. Beyond merely introducing malware, without user privilege elevation, they can siphon off sensitive data. Execute secret extractions, manipulate files and configuration. A notorious exemplar of this threat is the Rubber Ducky, HID scripting attack tool, impersonating as a legitimate keyboard, by spoofing its VID, PID and ClassIDs, which, despite its innocuous name, can wreak havoc within a digital infrastructure.

USB attack tool
USB attack tool impersonating as a legitimate mouse
USB attack power bank pen
USB attack tool impersonating as a legitimate power bank pen

The Shortcomings of Contemporary Defense Mechanisms

Regrettably, most existing cybersecurity mechanisms lack sufficient capabilities to effectively counter these subversive threats. Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions, while advanced, primarily focus on detecting and responding to payload attacks initiated by these devices. While successfully handling, legitimate USB devices – thumb drives, USB cameras and mobile phones, they consistently fail to monitor the subtle events of these spoofing USB (Bad USB) tools being connected or disconnected from host systems. This leaves organizations vulnerable to USB attacks.

A reflexive measure, adopted by many organizations, is the blanket disabling of all USB ports. Yet, this strategy is fraught with vulnerabilities:

1. Ubiquity of USB-C: With the pervasive adoption of USB-C power supplies in modern computing devices, merely sealing off USB ports doesn’t inoculate systems from threats.

2. Operational Disruption: The act of blocking USB functionalities can inadvertently disrupt organizational processes by rendering genuine peripherals like keyboards or mice inoperative. This is especially true in hybrid environment, where employees are working from home, using their own, available, USB peripherals (Remote Work Security).

Sepio’s Vanguard Approach to USB Attacks and Hardware Security

Sepio’s groundbreaking platform emerges as the beacon in this challenging landscape. It distinguishes itself by executing a holistic, programmatic hardware security audit of an organization’s complete hardware ecosystem. This is not restricted to merely scanning peripheral connections.

Sepio delves deeper, scrutinizing the intrinsic Hardware Bill of Material (HBOM) components.
This involves identifying the physical profile of every hardware device during its connection event at the physical layer (layer 1). This capability enables Sepio to discover and profile every peripheral device. Including identifying and discovering the USB devices that are attack tools or embedded within legit USB devices.


With cyber threats becoming increasingly nuanced and stealthy, the requirement for advanced, holistic solutions has never been more paramount. Sepio leads in ensuring that IT, OT, IoT, and peripheral infrastructures not only receive safeguarding but also exhibit resilience against the evolving world of USB-based threats.

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