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Wireless USB - Any threats on the horizon?

Created: 28 Jun 2006 07:00:00 GMT • Updated: 23 Jan 2014 18:59:09 GMT
Ollie  Whitehouse's picture
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These days, I spend a lot of my time looking at mobile devices and wireless technologies from a security perspective. I am particularly interested in the convergence of technology, and something that recently made me sit up and say “Here we go again!” is Wireless USB.

A development group has written a specification document for Wireless USB. The collaborative group (made up of representatives from Agere, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, Philips, and Samsung) is confident in the development of Wireless USB because they believe that it is a logical evolution of the ubiquitous technology of wired USB. The specification document states that Wireless USB can utilize the existing USB infrastructure and the USB model of smart host and simple device, but I am more interested in the security of the technology. In this regard, the document states that “Wireless USB is designed to provide a comparable amount of security to that which users enjoyed with wired USB.”

As with the case of Bluetooth, the special interest group has taken a serious look into the security for Wireless USB. Even though the group has made sound choices to use AES-128 Counter with CBC-MAC (CCM) and RSA with 3072bit keys for encryption, and SHA-256 for hashing, I still get a sense of déjà vu. While all of this looks very good from a read of the specifications and I begin to think that I will be able to sleep soundly at night, I still predict that we are going to repeat the security merry-go-round that we have seen with Bluetooth over the last four years. I also predict that the attacks that do occur will consist of either default insecure implementations, insecure deployments on hosts, flawed protocol implementations in the devices and hosts, or passive over-the-air attacks such as pass phrase cracking. Keep your eye on the horizon. I hope that the Wireless USB sky is clear.