Hacking the stick

I decided to inspect the flash first. According to Ritech, the data on it was encrypted; it wouldn't be the first time a manufacturer of USB-sticks claims stuff the stick doesn't actually do, though. I desoldered the flash-chip using a heat-gun. (Please note that Ritech claims opening the device and pulling out the flash-chip isn't possible without irreparably damaging said flash-chip.) I then inserted it into my nand-reader, a device consisting mainly of a pcb, some resistors and a connector to the parallel port of my PC.

The file I dumped off the chip seemed to confirm Ritechs claim of using encryption to store the data: apart from the first few K at the start of the flash which seemed to contain the firmware for the xSIL USB-to-nand-chip and some wear-levelling tables, the data was complete gobbledygook, with no discernable pattern. Having dumped the flash, I decided to solder the chip back in and try another way to get to my data.

I decided to take a look at the connections between the main PCB and the fingerprint-PCB. This one consisted of two pin headers, both of which had 7 pins. The first one seemed to be used solely to control the LEDs; the other one, however, seemed to connect the fingerprint-handling-IC to the main PCB. I connected my oscilloscope to these pins, and surely enough, two of the pins revealed some kind of communication when a finger was put on the sensor. The communication seemed to be an asynchronous serial one, and the width of the pulses indicated it had to be at 9600 baud. I decided to listen in on the communication and connected an old GSM data-cable to the pin that seemed to be sending data from the fingerprint-IC to the main PCB. It turned out the communication was question-response-based, and went something like this:

While the real communication is more binary and has checksums and response-IDs, this is basically how the communication between these components work. Some people may already have spotted the weakness in the scheme: what if it's not the fingerprint-IC which is sending the 'I have found a recognized fingerprint!'-response?

Eager to see if such a hack is possible, I cut the pin the responses from the fingerprint-IC were sent on and spliced the datacable in between. Now my PC acted as a man-in-the-middle: it could listen in to the things the fingerprint-IC sent and could decide if it would just pass through the message, block it, or send something completely different. Then, I recorded some of the responses the chip sent when presented a correct fingerprint. Finally, I created a little program (60 lines of C) which detects and blocks the message sent when a fingerprint is not recognised and sends one of the recorded messages instead.

After writing the program, I wired up the stick, inserted it to the USB-port and pressed my nose against the fingerprint-sensor: I was quite sure it didn't know that 'fingerprint' yet. My program gave the message that it had altered the message from the fingerprint-IC, and lo and behold: the green LED blinked indicating the stick thought it had received a recognized fingerprint. Repeating the procedure gave the stick the second 'fingerprint' it wanted, and the contents of the stick were available to my computer.

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