Making USB Great Again with USBFILTER

Dave (Jing) Tian, Nolen Scaife, Adam Bates, Kevin R. B. Butler, and Patrick Traynor.
2016 USENIX Security Symposium (Security'16).
Austin, TX, USA. August 11, 2016.
(acceptance rate=15.5%)
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USB provides ubiquitous plug-and-play connectivity for a wide range of devices. However, the complex nature of USB obscures the true functionality of devices from the user, and operating systems blindly trust any physically-attached device. This has led to a number of attacks, ranging from hidden keyboards to network adapters, that rely on the user being unable to identify all of the functions attached to the host. In this paper, we present USBFILTER, which provides the first packet-level access control for USB and can prevent unauthorized interfaces from successfully connecting to the host operating system. USBFILTER can trace individual USB packets back to their respective processes and block unauthorized access to any device. By instrumenting the host’s USB stack between the device drivers and the USB controller, our system is able to filter packets at a granularity that previous works cannot – at the lowest possible level in the operating system. USBFILTER is not only able to block or permit specific device interfaces; it can also restrict interfaces to a particular application (e.g., only Skype can access my webcam). Furthermore, our experimental analysis shows that USBFILTER introduces a negligible (3-10 microseconds) increase in latency while providing mediation of all USB packets on the host. Our system provides a level of granularity and extensibility that reduces the uncertainty of USB connectivity and ensures unauthorized devices are unable to communicate with the host.