Honeynet looks to trap USB malware

Virtualized USB drive as honeypot

The Honeynet project has picked up research by a German student to trap malware designed to spread via USB keys.

USB-distributed malware – like Stuxnet and its bloated cousin, Flame – presents problems for network-based security, since they don’t spread through the network.

The Bonn University student, Sebastian Peoplau, has now been added to the Honeynet project as Ghost-usb-honeypot, here. Like network honeypots, which emulate network clients to invite infection, the new project emulates USB flash drives to invite infection – via the USB drive rather than via the network.

The problem with trying to trap such malware is that it’s not practical to hand-test every machine in a network – especially a large network.

“We know, without having any knowledge about the actual malware … that if we plug in the USB flash drive, and wait for a sufficient time, the malware will eventually copy itself to the flash drive,” he said in a presentation in April (available on YouTube), prior to Honeynet adopting Peoplau’s ideas.

The Peoplau proposal is simply to emulate the USB drive in an image file, so that any attempt by the machine under test to write to the device can be trapped. The software loads virtual device drivers, letting Windows notify the system (including any malware that might be present) that a removable device has been plugged in.

The trapped copy of the malware can then be unloaded when the emulator is “unplugged”, and copied for analysis. Ghost-usb-honeypot’s page notes that the software is at “an early stage of development.” ®

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