Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

7/23/2018
03:52 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Software is Achilles Heel of Hardware Cryptocurrency Wallets

Upcoming Black Hat talk will detail software vulnerabilities that can put private cryptocurrency wallets and currency exchange services at risk.

Cryptocurrency exchanges and private wallets have been fully in cyberattacker crosshairs as criminals seek to make the most of an exploding new financial market that some analysts say will reach $1 trillion by the end of the year. In response to these attacks, a number of manufacturers have come out with secure hardware wallets meant to harden the storage of the cryptographic keys that serve as proof of ownership of vast sums of money. However, a new piece of research expected out of Black Hat USA next month shows that these secure hardware storage devices may not be as locked down as their users expect them to be.

Presented by Sergei Volokitin, the research will show how software attacks can be used to break the Secure Element, the supposedly tamper-resistant hardware platform upon which these hardware wallets base their protection. Volokitin found vulnerabilities in these wallets' trusted execution environment (TEE) operating systems that could be manipulated to compromise memory isolation and cause the wallet to give up operating system and application secrets.

"Despite the fact that the device makes use of secure hardware to protect the private keys, a number of flaws in the software design and implementation allowed us to create various attack scenarios, including remote, physical and supply chain attacks," explains Volokitin, who works as a security analyst for Riscure, a global security test lab based in the Netherlands. 

Using the identified vulnerabilities, anybody who can get physical access to the hardware wallet would be able to steal keys and data from the device. What's more, an attacker could theoretically create a supply chain attack where they poison the device from the get-go in order to gain full control of wallets on the device once users started putting data into the hardware's applications. It might sound like a far-fetched attack scenario, but given the stakes it's not unreasonable to consider.

"In cryptocurrency hardware wallets, the stakes are high, since single private key is the only asset preventing an attacker from stealing the coins and getting away with it," says Volokitin.

While particularly troubling for the cryptocurrency ecosystem, Volokitin's research also has broader implications across enterprise security. It's another lesson that hardened secure devices are only as tamper-proof as the firmware and other software embedded within them. 

"Although the hardware wallets are primarily designed to be used in cryptocurrency-related solutions, from a security point of view they are not much different from any other security devices," he says. "In fact, one of the compromised applications on the device was the secure application for FIDO authentication, which can be used in many other applications as well."

He explains that generally it is very difficult for end customers to evaluate the risk of using a hardware security device if it does not require mandatory certification.

"The main questions the end users of such secure devices need to ask themselves/the manufacturer is what manufacturer did to improve the security of the device," he says, explaining they should be looking for vendors that do extensive testing of their hardware products. "Doing an evaluation of a security solution by a third party, through an evaluation or a bug bounty, is an effective way to improve security of a product."

 

 

 

 

Black Hat USA returns to Las Vegas with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft to Officially End Support for Windows 7, Server 2008
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7227
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
Westermo MRD-315 1.7.3 and 1.7.4 devices have an information disclosure vulnerability that allows an authenticated remote attacker to retrieve the source code of different functions of the web application via requests that lack certain mandatory parameters. This affects ifaces-diag.asp, system.asp, ...
CVE-2019-15625
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A memory usage vulnerability exists in Trend Micro Password Manager 3.8 that could allow an attacker with access and permissions to the victim's memory processes to extract sensitive information.
CVE-2019-19696
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A RootCA vulnerability found in Trend Micro Password Manager for Windows and macOS exists where the localhost.key of RootCA.crt might be improperly accessed by an unauthorized party and could be used to create malicious self-signed SSL certificates, allowing an attacker to misdirect a user to phishi...
CVE-2019-19697
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An arbitrary code execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2019 (v15) consumer family of products which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and tamper with protected services by disabling or otherwise preventing them to start. An attacker must already have administr...
CVE-2019-20357
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A Persistent Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2020 (v160 and 2019 (v15) consumer familiy of products which could potentially allow an attacker the ability to create a malicious program to escalate privileges and attain persistence on a vulnerable system.