A simple $30 part and publicly available code allowed access to keys…
An article review.
Researchers recently announced a new successful attack against Bitlocker, a full-disk encryption tool that has built into Windows since Vista, and the attack is surprisingly simple in its execution. The attack, detailed in an article submitted to us by our friend Wes Pollard, required only a $30 piece of hardware, some soldering skill and publicly available code.
In general when we hear about an attack that requires physical access to a device we discount that attack’s severity–after all, usually there are controls in place to prevent physical access to begin with, making such an attack less likely. However, full-disk encryption is often used on mobile devices which by their nature will be more likely to be stolen, making potential attacks more serious.
In addition to requiring physical access, past attacks on Bitlocker have required more technical knowledge and/or specialized equipment, making those attacks less serious. This new attack, though, can be performed with inexpensive equipment and soldering skills that many technical people may have. The good news is that most devices are stolen simply for the monetary value of the equipment itself, and thieves will likely not go to any great length to try and recover data, meaning solutions like Bitlocker are still useful.
If this report has you concerned for your organization’s data there are some ways to mitigate the attack, including using a USB key to store the keys needed to decrypt the drive and/or assigning a PIN to use in conjunction with Bitlocker. Implementations of Bitlocker that do not utilize a Trusted Platform Module are also not impacted by this attack.
As this report shows, no security is foolproof…especially if someone has physical access to the device in question. We still believe full-disk encryption–including Bitlocker–is an important control for sensitive data, but it should only be one part of your approach.
Original article by Catalin Cimpanu writing for Zero Day, a ZDNet blog.