Researchers claim serious vulnerabilities in hardware cryptocurrency wallets

News by Robert Abel

Some of the most popular cryptocurrency hardware wallets were found to be vulnerable to firmware, side-channel, microcontroller and supply-chain attacks, although manufacturers are maintaining their products are secure.

Some of the most popular cryptocurrency hardware wallets were found to be vulnerable to firmware, side-channel, microcontroller and supply-chain attacks, although manufacturers are maintaining their products are secure.

Researchers  Dmitry Nedospasov, Thomas Roth and Josh Datko demonstrated the vulnerabilities dubbed "wallet.fail" in a range of cryptocurrency wallets including Trezor One, Ledger Nano S, and Ledger Blue, at the 35c3 conference in Leipzig, Germany on 27 December.

The proof of concept attacks exploited vulnerabilities in firmware, software, hardwared, architectural design and physical design flaws with some attacks requiring new hardware revisions or in the case of microcontrollers, new silicon.

The attacks included the team installing a hardware implant in a device that combined with spyware allowed them to obtain the wallets’ PIN, installing custom firmware that allowed them to send malicious transactions and display false transactions, stealing a wallet’s PIN by intercepting radio signals and flashing a device with custom firmware to obtain private keys which grant access to the wallet.

"The sad reality is there is just not a lot of security in cryptocurrency," Nedospasov said during his talk. "And that is painful to hear."

Some of manufactures have since responded denouncing the attacks and claiming there were holes in the researchers’ proof-of-concepts ultimately stating that their hardware was safe to use. 

"They did not succeed to extract any seed nor PIN on a stolen device, Ledger said in a response to the presentation. "Every sensitive assets stored on the Secure Element remain secure.Don’t worry, your crypto-assets are still secure on your Ledger device."

This article was originally published on SC Media US

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