Showing results for: YubiHSM

Jakob Ehrensvärd

YubiKey & BadUSB

Updated Oct. 22, 2014 to include information on Security Key

We have received a few questions with regards to “BadUSB” concept, presented at BlackHat 2014. This was picked up by wired.com, where the problem domain is somewhat expanded into a claim that the “Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken”.

Although there are a few different (and known) issues presented, the main claim here is the possibility to turn a legitimate USB device into an evil one by replacing its genuine firmware with a malign image. The authors describes USB devices, but this general concept applies to almost all types of devices having the capability to upgrade the firmware in the field, a process known as Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU).

The concept of creating “hardware Trojans” is interesting (and scary) and gained quite some attention in the early 1990s when the first field-upgradeable flash BIOSes for PCs became available. It was then shown that by replacing a legitimate BIOS with a hacked image, malign functionality could be implanted deep into the functionality of a PC, beyond reach of anti-virus software.

However, although conceptually feasible, such attacks are not that easy to execute practically and to make them widespread. There are quite a few reasons for that.

  1. Many low-end USB devices do not support DFU, either because the firmware is factory-programmed in a non-alterable mask ROM, one-time-programmable ROM or simply because there is no DFU mechanism implemented. Supporting DFU adds cost and complexity and therefore makes little sense for low-cost mass-market devices, such as thumb drives, card readers, keyboards and mice.
  2. To perform DFU, often some active (and usually quite awkward) sequence has to be performed by the user, such as holding a button while the device is power cycled. Then, a specific executable has to be run in the computer where the device is connected to perform the actual firmware upgrade. This is not something that is likely to happen without the user actively initiating it.
  3. An attack of this kind has to be targeted on a per device model basis, and then requires extensive knowledge of the particular implementation, including reverse-engineering. An attack that works for a specific device will only work for that particular version of the device. Making a blast to a large number of users and try to fool them to upgrade with a malign image seems somewhat unlikely to get more than a marginal impact.
  4. Many low-end USB devices have limited memory capabilities which cannot be upgraded with a firmware that can do anything really evil while maintaining their intended function. So, if the device is infected, it won’t be able to perform what it was designed to do. High-end devices, such as MP3-players, cameras and phones are a different story, but there the problem can be mitigated by code signing.

There are probably quite a few devices out there that do not implement basic countermeasures against what has been listed above, but probably the biggest issue with DFU is that the user accidentally bricks a device when an update fails or stalls before it has been completed. This is an implementation issue and should be seen as a design flaw by the vendor rather than a system-wide problem.

One can wonder if low-end USB devices, such as thumb drives are in fact the scariest targets for malign firmware and also why these would implement or require DFU? Phones, network routers and gateways with extensive memory and processing capabilities together with constant network and power connection seems to be more obvious and attractive in this respect. Here, the number of vendors is less and DFU is supported on a more general scale.

Seen from a different angle, one can ask if this is really a USB problem or the fact that devices (above the complexity of a thumb drive) are nowadays frequently (and very fundamentally) updated. Replacing the operating system in a tablet, firmware image in a printer, phone or a network router does not require USB – it is done directly via the network connection. The scalability and harm of such attacks is probably orders of magnitude worse than what can be accomplished on a per-device basis via USB.

The question then inevitably becomes – so how does this all affect current Yubico products, which obviously are USB devices?

With regards to the FIDO U2F Security Key by Yubico and DFU…
– There is not a DFU mechanism in the Security Key and hence it cannot be updated.

With regards to the YubiKey Standard and DFU…
– The firmware is in non-alterable ROM and hence cannot be updated.

With regards to the YubiKey NEO and DFU…
– The YubiKey NEO technically does support DFU, but requires the new firmware image to be signed by us. Yubico does not endorse nor support use of DFU for users.

With regards to the YubiHSM and DFU…
– The device does not implement DFU and hence cannot be updated.

With regards to a USB device being a carrier for malign files…
– The YubiKey or YubiHSM do not support Mass Storage Device (MSD), so they cannot carry infected files or data.

Ronnie Manning

Yubico Launches YubiHSM 2: The World’s Smallest and Best Price/Performance Hardware Security Module, Providing Root of Trust for Servers and Computing Devices

PALO ALTO, CA – October 31, 2017 – Yubico, the leading provider of authentication and encryption hardware devices for the modern web, today launched the YubiHSM 2, a new, cost-effective Hardware Security Module (HSM) for servers and IoT gateways. The product delivers the highest levels of security for cryptographic digital key generation, storage, and management, supporting an extensive range of enterprise environments and applications.

YubiHSM 2, a new, cost-effective Hardware Security Module (HSM) for servers and IoT gateways

The YubiHSM 2 differs from traditional HSM models — historically limited in use by cost, size, and performance — by offering advanced digital key protection capabilities and benefits at a price within reach for all organizations. Delivered in an ultra-slim “nano” form factor, the YubiHSM 2 fits inside a USB port, eliminating the need for bulky additional hardware, and offers flexibility for offline key transfer or backup. 

Essential security features, including hashing, asymmetric, and symmetric cryptography, are supported by the YubiHSM 2 to protect cryptographic keys while at rest or in use. These keys are most often used by certificate authorities, databases, code signing, and more, to secure critical applications, identities, and sensitive data in an enterprise. Furthermore, the integrity and privacy of commands and data in transit between the application and YubiHSM 2 are protected using a mutually authenticated, integrity- and confidentiality-protected tunnel.

“It’s estimated that 95% of all IT breaches happen when a user credential or server gets hacked. For years Yubico has been protecting user accounts from remote hijacking with our unphishable YubiKey authentication devices, but we knew that millions of servers storing sensitive data were still lacking physical security,” said Stina Ehrensvard, CEO and Founder, Yubico. “It was important to us that we brought a solution to market that embodied the signature Yubico standards of high-security, convenience, and affordability. Now, with the addition of YubiHSM 2, we can enable critical server security for organizations worldwide — regardless of size or budget.”

Common use cases for  the YubiHSM 2 include protecting cryptographic keys stored on servers used in data centers, cloud server infrastructures, manufacturing and industrial services. Critical security benefits include:

  • Secure Microsoft’s Active Directory Certificate Services – YubiHSM 2 provides a cost-effective hardware-backed key to secure digital keys used in a Microsoft-based PKI implementation. Deploying YubiHSM 2 to Microsoft Active Directory Certificate services not only guards the CA root keys but also protects all signing and verification services using the root key.
  • Enhance Protection for Cryptographic Keys – YubiHSM 2 offers a compelling option for secure generation, storage and management of digital keys including essential capabilities to generate, write, sign, decrypt, hash and wrap keys.
  • Enable Hardware-Based Cryptographic Operations – YubiHSM 2 can be used as a comprehensive cryptographic toolbox for a wide range of open source and commercial applications. The most common use case being hardware-based digital signature generation and verification. The YubiHSM 2 features can be accessed through Yubico’s Key Storage Provider (KSP) for industry-standard PKCS#11 or Microsoft’s CNG, or via native Windows, Linux and macOS libraries.

Additional features include, optional network-sharing, role-based access controls, remote management, M of N wrap key backup and restore, tamper evident audit logging, concurrent connections (up to 16), and extensive cryptographic capabilities (RSA, ECC, ECDSA (ed25519), SHA-2, and AES).

For more information on the YubiHSM 2, visit https://www.yubico.com/products/yubihsm. Units are available for purchase at www.Yubico.com/store for $650 US. To learn more about Yubico and the company’s products and ecosystem, please visit www.Yubico.com.

 

About Yubico
Yubico sets new global standards for simple and secure access to computers, servers, and internet accounts.

The company’s core invention, the YubiKey, delivers strong hardware protection, with a simple touch, across any number of IT systems and online services. The YubiHSM, Yubico’s ultra-portable hardware security module, protects sensitive data stored in servers.

Yubico is a leading contributor to the FIDO Universal 2nd Factor open authentication standard, and the company’s technology is deployed and loved by 9 of the top 10 internet brands and by millions of users in 160 countries.

Founded in 2007, Yubico is privately held, with offices in Sweden, UK, Germany, USA, Australia, and Singapore. For more information: www.yubico.com

 

Media Contact
Ronnie Manning
Senior Director, Public Relations
Yubico
619.822.2239
ronnie@yubico.com