Security Market Segment LS
Thursday, 07 January 2010 09:00

NIST-certified secure USB drives easily cracked

A major flaw in the password handling procedures in some supposedly secure 'thumb drives' makes them trivially easy to unlock.

Recent research by the German security company Syss has uncovered a glaring hole in the security management of a variety of USB flash drives with AES 256-bit hardware encryption.

In a nutshell, the problem is in the communication between the password management software on the computer and the unlock code on the device.

You'll be amazed to know that no matter what the password, the unlock code sent to the device is always the same!

Vulnerable devices include Kingston's DataTraveler BlackBox, the SanDisk Cruzer Enterprise FIPS Edition and the Verbatim Corporate Secure FIPS Edition.

SanDisk, in its security bulletin offered a vague description of the problem "SanDisk has recently identified a potential vulnerability in the access control mechanism and has provided a product update to address the issue."  One can only wonder what the downloadable update does to change the unlock-code.

Similarly, Verbatim also only hinted at a problem and also offered a software-only solution.

Only Kingston has taken the issue seriously, issuing a worldwide recall for three of the nine products in their secured drive range.  "It has recently been brought to our attention that a skilled person with the proper tools and physical access to the drives may be able to gain unauthorized access to data contained on the following Kingston Secure USB drives: DataTraveler BlackBox (DTBB), DataTraveler Secure - Privacy Edition (DTSP) and DataTraveler Elite - Privacy Edition (DTEP)."

Clearly any security regime that handles password verification other than on the secured device is going to be susceptible to these kinds of attacks, but to claim NIST's FIPS 140-2 certification and wave it around like some banner of impenetrability, giving an aura of perfection is clearly over the top in this instance.

We await a more serious response from SanDisk and Verbatim, more in line with Kingston's product recall.  In the mean time, users might want to look at the IronKey range of devices.

Subscribe to ITWIRE UPDATE Newsletter here


The much awaited iTWire Shop is now open to our readers.

Visit the iTWire Shop, a leading destination for stylish accessories, gear & gadgets, lifestyle products and everyday portable office essentials, drones, zoom lenses for smartphones, software and online training.

PLUS Big Brands include: Apple, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, Sennheiser and many more.

Products available for any country.

We hope you enjoy and find value in the much anticipated iTWire Shop.



iTWire TV offers a unique value to the Tech Sector by providing a range of video interviews, news, views and reviews, and also provides the opportunity for vendors to promote your company and your marketing messages.

We work with you to develop the message and conduct the interview or product review in a safe and collaborative way. Unlike other Tech YouTube channels, we create a story around your message and post that on the homepage of ITWire, linking to your message.

In addition, your interview post message can be displayed in up to 7 different post displays on our the site to drive traffic and readers to your video content and downloads. This can be a significant Lead Generation opportunity for your business.

We also provide 3 videos in one recording/sitting if you require so that you have a series of videos to promote to your customers. Your sales team can add your emails to sales collateral and to the footer of their sales and marketing emails.

See the latest in Tech News, Views, Interviews, Reviews, Product Promos and Events. Plus funny videos from our readers and customers.


David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

Share News tips for the iTWire Journalists? Your tip will be anonymous




Guest Opinion

Guest Interviews

Guest Reviews

Guest Research

Guest Research & Case Studies

Channel News