Chrome OS takes steps to block ‘Rubber Ducky’ USB attacks

Google is making Chromebooks less susceptible to sabotage via USB port

The Acer Chromebook 14 for Work with the lid closed

Google has said it will allow users to disable the USB ports on their Chromebooks when the screen is locked, in an attempt to counteract the problem of hackers exploiting the tech to infect a machine with malware.

USB ports may have provided the world with a very easy standard of sharing data, but they have also given hackers an equally easy opening, provided they have physical access.

These so-called "Rubber Ducky" attacks involve inserting a malicious thumb drive into a USB port, which tricks the computer into believing it is a keyboard, which then runs malicious commands. A number of variants of this nasty trick have emerged over the years, including BadUSB, PoisonTap, USBdriveby and USBHarpoon.

There's one surprisingly simple fix that eliminates the problem in one fell swoop though: if a hacker has to have physical access, then it makes sense that the computer's owner can't be around at the time. With that in mind, simply disabling the USB ports when the computer is screen locked sidesteps the issue. In other words, when the computer is unattended, it simply won't read any USB devices connected until it's unlocked again.

This is the approach that Apple took with an update to iOS last year, and now it looks like it's coming to Chrome OS. As spotted by Chrome Story, an update to the operating system's Canary build gives users the option to disable USB ports when the screen is locked. Users can enable it by modifying the Chrome OS flag: chrome://flags/#enable-usbguard

Helpfully, the USB ports will only be disabled for new devices so if you've started a big file copy and left your Chromebook unattended, you won't come back to find that its given up halfway through.

USB Guard is currently in the Canary build of Chrome OS, but you would imagine it'll emerge in a stable build of the operating system in the very near future.

Featured Resources

Unleashing the power of AI initiatives with the right infrastructure

What key infrastructure requirements are needed to implement AI effectively?

Download now

Achieve today. Plan tomorrow. Making the hybrid multi-cloud journey

A Veritas webinar on implementing a hybrid multi-cloud strategy

Download now

A buyer’s guide for cloud-based phone solutions

Finding the right phone system for your modern business

Download now

The workers' experience report

How technology can spark motivation, enhance productivity and strengthen security

Download now

Recommended

Your essential guide to internet security
Security

Your essential guide to internet security

27 Jan 2021
Mimecast links breach to SolarWinds hackers
Security

Mimecast links breach to SolarWinds hackers

27 Jan 2021
TikTok vulnerability exposed private user data
data protection

TikTok vulnerability exposed private user data

26 Jan 2021
SonicWall hacked via zero-day flaw in remote access tools
Security

SonicWall hacked via zero-day flaw in remote access tools

25 Jan 2021

Most Popular

WhatsApp could face €50 million GDPR fine
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

WhatsApp could face €50 million GDPR fine

25 Jan 2021
How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD
operating systems

How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD

21 Jan 2021
What is a 502 bad gateway and how do you fix it?
web hosting

What is a 502 bad gateway and how do you fix it?

12 Jan 2021