Researchers Use NSA Leaks to Create USB Adapter That Steals Data from Offline Computers

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A device for stealing data from offline computers hidden in a USB adapter was demonstrated by a team at a hacking and information security conference this past weekend. The device is based on a similar USB tool described in leaked NSA documents, and cost about $20 to make.

The device, dubbed “Turnipschool” was unveiled at SchmooCon, an annual conference held in Washington. It is part of the NSA Playset project, which seeks to advance security research through use of the infamous NSA leaks.

Turnipschool, based on a $20,000 device the NSA called “Cottonmouth-1,” can theoretically be used to launch man-in-the-middle attacks, and install and control malware. The ability to do this against networks with an “air gap” or “air wall” between them and the internet or LAN is what makes Turnipschool and Cottonmouth-1 dangerous.

So far the Turnipschool can connect to a network and gather information about it.

Security researcher Michael Ossman presented the project with collaborators Domenic Spill and Jared Boone, the Daily Mail reports. They use a 3D-printed injection mold to fit a radio on a custom printed circuit board into a USB plug, which conceals it as a regular connection device.

Learning from the NSA is probably a good strategy for information security professionals, as they continue to show their information gathering muscle with the apparent discovery of North Korea’s culpability in the Sony hack, even as doubts were voiced within the security community.

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