As self driving cars are on the cusp to sweep into the world along with smart networked household devices – all packaged with the ability to track average citizens to the most significant degree in history – comes yet another report of how computer hackers seem to have the upper hand when it comes to taking control of innocent computers.

virus USB sticks

Computer virus from USB

This time, the hackers control is so omnipotent that once their infected “stick” is inserted into the computer’s “slot” the computer receives a virus it cannot get rid of.  How’s that for a good first date?

The virus is somehow inserted into USB sticks, memory drives used to store computer files.  When the USB is inserted into the computer, it delivers control of the computer to a third party without the computer user’s knowledge. The security flaw also extends to other devices that connect a PC to a USB port, including keyboards, mice and mobile device connections. Researchers say the virus has the appearance of being linked to intelligence services.

The stealth virus was discovered by Karsten Nohl, chief scientist at Security Research Labs, along with security researcher Jakob Lell. They discovered the malcreant troublemaker by reverse-engineering the USB firmware.

These researchers say USB controller chips are defenseless against being reprogrammed against their will.

A report on the topic did not mention the names of specific software manufacturers nor did it question how such vulnerabilities can elude security inside the device manufacturers.

Intelligence agencies may already be using this spyware

The report specified that global intelligence agencies may already be using this spyware.  It is unknown if highly dangerous computer applications such as the new security flaw were first developed by the intelligence community and then later somehow fell into nefarious hands.

During the scant and generally slanted mainstream media coverage of the NSA spying on US citizens, certain topics seemed not to receive attention. For instance, what happens if pieces of the most amazing spy apparatus in world history fall into criminal or terrorist hands?  Is it inconceivable that an intelligence agency that is reported to have passed around nude pictures it collects from internet spying might also sell computer code on the black market and retire to an island beach off the grid?

Hard to say with this latest virus that appears to have an intelligence agency connection. The virus is virtually untraceable and the intrusions are literally undetected, according to researchers Nohl and Lell.

The virus is also hard to shake. Even if you wipe your computer clean, the criminals may still have control of your computer and connection devices, the researchers say.

Nohl and Lell will reveal details at the Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas next week. The real story to watch, however, is what could be the first example of an NSA computer spy program reaching the black market.

Will we ever know if intelligence services are engaged in nefarious behavior? Likely not. That’s a matter of national security.