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Editing "operating system" of USB connectable device


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#1 rp88

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 03:38 PM

A lot of devices (cameras, mp3 players...) can be plugged into computers via a USB lead and files can be copied onto and off of their internal storage.

But each of these devices is in many ways a computer in itself, and will therefore have an operating system made up of files just the way that windows or linux is. If you were to connect the hard-drive taken out of a computer to a USB port via an adapter then you could change both files stored on the hard-drive and the OS of the computer it came from such that when that hard-drive was used again in a computer that computet could be running an altered OS. USB connectable devices are surely just the same, they have storage on them and while only the media files in the storage seem to show there must be an operating system or firmware in that storage too.

If someone wanted to edit the operating system of a USB connectable device how would it be done? The OS and files which make it up don't generally show when these devices are connected to computers, instead you just see the media files being stored on them, but those OS files must be there somewhere and, with sufficient care being taken not to mess them up badly, it must be possible to edit them to remove unwelcome features of a device or to add in any features that you can work out how to code in the relevant language, or for a really simple example, substituting the images used to make a device's GUI with other images so you can change the icons shown on it when it is operated.

I'm not intending to do anything like this any time soon, I can see that if you edited the OS in the wrong way you'd ruin the USB connectable device, and if you didn't keep a backup of the unaltered OS of the device it might never be possble to fix. But I've been wondering how it would be done.

Thanks

Edited by rp88, 07 December 2017 - 03:39 PM.

Back on this site, for a while anyway, been so busy the last year.

My systems:2 laptops, intel i3 processors, windows 8.1 installed on the hard-drive and linux mint 17.3 MATE installed to USB

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#2 Kilroy

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 02:57 PM

What you want to do is change the drive firmware, similar to a BIOS update.   Here is an article with links to tools.  The attack was called BadUSB, where you would have the USB drive say it was a keyboard or network device.



#3 rp88

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Posted 14 December 2017 - 05:22 PM

I'm not asking about changing the BIOS/UEFI of a computer itself, or turning USB devices into hacking tools by having them pretend to be something else when connected, I'm thinking things more like modifying the graphics on an mp3 player or phone (old, non-smart type of thing), adding extra functions to those kinds of devices, building custom firmware into cameras to do things like time lapse (most cameras have an inbuilt clock and the taking of a picture is triggered IN SOFTWARE when the "take button" is pressed, but not this feature)... Leaving the devices as devices which can still connect to a computer to copy files on and off in just the way they usually do but changing what they're able to do when the devices are being used alone as devices. How do you get at this firmware when it doesn't get seen by windows or linux's file browser when you attach a USB device?
Thanks

Edited by rp88, 14 December 2017 - 05:23 PM.

Back on this site, for a while anyway, been so busy the last year.

My systems:2 laptops, intel i3 processors, windows 8.1 installed on the hard-drive and linux mint 17.3 MATE installed to USB




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