'Poison Tap' USB Device Hijacks User Data From Screen-Locked Macs

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A developer has created a $5 device that can hack into screen-locked Macs and potentially other computers as long as a web browser is left running on the desktop.

Samy Kamkar made a YouTube video showing what happens when his creation hacks into a target computer. Called a "Poison Tap", the device runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero which plugs into a computer's USB port.

locked Mac hack
Once attached to the locked and password-protected Mac, it hijacks all web traffic by posing as a standard internet connection, after which it sets about siphoning and storing the user's HTTP cookies.

The attacker can then potentially use the stolen cookie data to access websites the user visited and log-in as them without having to enter username and password information.

Speaking to the BBC, Trend Micro security researcher Rik Ferguson said the device was a plausible threat to users who frequently left their computer unattended.

[In normal circumstances] Even when you are not using a web browser it is still making requests and communicating - due to updates or ads. Once the device is plugged in it exploits that communication and steals session cookies from the top one million websites.

Two-step verification would be susceptible to the same attack, explained Ferguson, because the device is able to intercept the cookies and pretend it is already in an open session. The only way to guard against such an attack would be for websites to use an encrypted connection such as HTTPS.

Otherwise, the best solution is for users to ensure they close their browser every time they leave their Mac unattended, or else close it down completely.

Top Rated Comments

dannys1 Avatar
54 months ago
It's ok, costs more that $5 for my computer as he'll need to buy a USB-C cable...

:D:p
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mazz0 Avatar
54 months ago
Well, this sounded quite concerning until I got to where it says it doesn't work for https connections. Still somewhat worrying though.

Mac exploits require a certain modicum of stupidity in order to work.

What exactly is stupid about leaving your computer locked with a browser open?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kstotlani Avatar
54 months ago

Mac exploits require a certain modicum of stupidity in order to work.

Speaking with experience?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
arkitect Avatar
54 months ago

So basically this is nothing to worry about unless you have a habit of leaving your Mac unattended in a public area. I don't know about you, but I'm not leaving my MacBook unattended anywhere!

I'm not leaving my MacBook unattended while I go the bathroom at Starbucks or anywhere else!

So in a work situation where desktops (Not portables) are left on all night? Sometimes the Mac is busy overnight rendering etc… cleaners come in… The way I see it there is potential for a problem.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
arkitect Avatar
54 months ago

Mac exploits require a certain modicum of stupidity in order to work.

In this case your comment seems misplaced.
What is so stupid about leaving my screen locked Mac unattended?

Not being snarky, but I am curious why you think this.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
saudor Avatar
54 months ago

Mac exploits require a certain modicum of stupidity in order to work.

so basically anyone that uses the "sleep" function and not physically power it down.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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