Posted on February 1, 2020 at 3:56 PM
Kraken Security Labs recently performed a hacking attempt on the hardware of Trezor cryptocurrency. The security outfit found out that hackers only need 15 minutes with the device to hack into their system. Kraken said that the vulnerability is found in the wallet hardware and is almost impossible to patch.
However, the security firm did mention that users can still provide strong protection over their assets by utilizing the BIP39 passphrase and making sure that no one else has physical control over their assets.
Hackers could exploit voltage glitching
In a blog post yesterday, Kraken said hackers may try exploiting voltage glitching and extracting encrypted seeds from Trezor T and Trezor one model wallets. The security firm said they can actually succeed even with limited access time to the device.
In view of this vulnerability, Kraken has advised users to be very careful with their security details and always use the BIP39 passphrase feature within the platform. According to Kraken, it would keep intending hackers off their details and keep their assets safe.
Trezor aware of Vulnerability
The blog post stated that Trezor has always known about the vulnerability in the platform since it was designed. Before Kraken went public to announce the vulnerability, Kraken pointed out that it contacted Trezor in October last year and revealed details of its findings.
Meanwhile, another security team, Ledger Donjon, equally carried out similar research on Trezor and found the same vulnerability.
Nick Percoco, Kraken’s security officer, said the vulnerability comes from the microcontroller utilized in Trezor’s wallet, which is the reason why the flaw is difficult to patch even though Trezor is aware of it.
He stated that the flaw is inbuilt in the hardware, and any attempt to patch the flaw may corrupt the hardware and render it useless. So, putting a formal update to patch it for all the customers may not be feasible unless Trezor wants to redesign new hardware from scratch. That’s the dilemma Trezor is facing right now. It is considering the cost of developing another device and the security challenge the flaw posses to the company and its customers.
The attack is not possible with BIP39 passphrase
After Kraken’s blog post, Trezor tweeted an official response to the research conducted by Ledger in March last year. Based on Trezor’s tweet, it will be very difficult for the attackers to infiltrate the system remotely. Also, it stated that users will be able to successfully block them by turning on the BIP39 passphrase.
It stated that there is less chance of attack as a result of vulnerability from physical access. The tweet continued that users who use physical access as part of their threat model should turn on the BIP 39 passphrase. But there is a catch here. The main issue is the fact that the passphrase is not available on all users’ platforms since it’s an optional addition. It means about 7% of the users who do not currently have the feature may be vulnerable to attack.
The security researchers confirmed the claims made by Trezor by pointing out that the successful attack on Trezor’s software would not have been possible if there was a BIP39 passphrase. Based on the findings, the researchers advised users to include the additional passphrase to their wallet and ensure that they have complete control of the physical access to their Trezor wallet.
Similar vulnerability exploits performed on KeepKey wallet
Apart from its attack on Trezor, Kraken also carried out a related check on the KeepKey wallet. From their findings, Kraken discovered that the chips are not meant to keep assets safe or keep secrets. The security experts advised that both KeepKey and Trezor should not completely depend on them to protect cryptocurrency.
Kraken said it went public with the discovery to create awareness on the vulnerability and give users the opportunity to protect their assets. The security outfit concluded that users of the wallet and the Bitcoin community need to be aware of the situation to take precautionary measures and avoid being victims of any attack.
“This is for our clients and for the users within the Bitcoin community to be aware that they need to take the additional precautions when using a hardware wallet to ensure that their seeds are protected,” he said.