USB Armory MkII: A USB-C Thumb Drive Based Linux Computer For Pentesters

While it might look like a disrobed flash drive or RTL-SDR dongle, the USB Armory Mk II is actually a full-fledged open hardware computer built into the ubiquitous USB “stick” format. But more than just that, it’s optimized for security research and boasts a list of features that are sure to get the attention of any pentesters in the audience. Fine tuned thanks to the feedback developer [Inverse Path] received about the original version of the hardware, the Mk II promises to be the last word in secure mobile computing.

Compared to the original hardware, the most obvious change is the switch to USB-C. The previous USB Armory used traces on the PCB to plug directly into a USB Type-A port, but this time around [Inverse Path] has put a proper male connector on the front of the board. Nominally, the USB Armory is plugged into a host computer to provide it with power and a network connection, though it also has the ability to disguise itself as a storage or input device for more stealthy applications. There’s also a female USB-C port on the Mk II, which can be used to connect additional devices, a feature the previous version lacked.

The USB Armory Mk II is powered by an upgraded 900 MHz ARM Cortex-A7 processor, though it retains the same 512 MB of RAM from the previous version. Like the original, there’s a micro SD slot to hold the Linux operating system, but this time it’s supplemented with an onboard 16 GB eMMC chip. There’s even a physical switch that allows the user to choose which storage device they want to boot from. Other additions for the Mk II include Bluetooth connectivity, and a hardware true random number generator (TRNG).

We first brought you word of the original USB Armory back in 2014, and it’s always good to see an open hardware project thriving and iterating years later. While the $149 price tag arguably puts the MKII out of the tinkering budget for many of us, there’s clearly a market for niche devices like this and we can’t wait to see what [Inverse Path] comes up with next.

The Miniware TS100 As A USB-C Soldering Iron

Many readers will be familiar with the Miniware TS100 soldering iron, a lightweight temperature-controlled iron that is giving significantly more expensive soldering tools a run for their money. There is another model in the range, the TS80, which though it uses different tips than its sibling has the main distinguishing feature of USB-C power rather than a DC barrel jack. A cadre of users still prefer the TS100 for this reason, as an iron that can run from almost any low voltage DC power source. Any except USB-C, that is, an omission that [thinkl33t] has rectified with a USB-C adapter for the older model.

To achieve this, he’s used a readily-available ZYPDS USB-to-DC module and attached it to a barrel jack. For now, it’s simply held on by solder with a bit of heat-shrink over the top. [Thinkl33t] observes that this may not prove to be strong enough and he’ll eventually have to put it on a bit of cable. It’s a simple enough hack, but it serves as a quick introduction to these parts which perform the necessary USB-C magic to deliver a DC supply, as well as to highlight the relative scarcity of higher-power USB supplies.

At the moment there’s an inevitable move to USB-C All The Things, but it’s a trend that it seems many manufacturers of power sources have yet to catch up with. When a typical TS-80 owner finds their shiny new USB-C battery bank is, in reality, an older 5V USB bank with a USB-C connector fitted, it’s no wonder that their friends prefer the TS100. We hope that coming years will see a greater range of USB-C power options, but until then we like the versatility of the barrel jack on the TS100. Especially now that it can so readily be made to take USB-C power.

We reviewed the TS100 back in 2017, and two years of using it since then have not changed our opinion of it.

Thanks to the several tipsters including [thinkl33t]  himself who sent us this.

Solder Ninja Dabbles In USB Power Arcana

USB first hit the scene in the 1990s, and was intended to simplify connecting peripherals to PCs and eliminate the proliferation of various legacy interfaces. Over 20 years later, it’s not only achieved its initial goals, but become a de facto standard for charging and power supply for all manner of personal electronic gadgets. If you asked someone back in 1995 whether or not you could build a USB-powered soldering iron, they’d have politely asked you to leave the USB Implementers Forum. But times change, and Solder Ninja is just that!

With a maximum power draw of 40 W, the Solder Ninja required careful design to ensure practicality. It supports a variety of USB power standards, including USB-BC 1.2, USB Quick Charge, and USB Power Delivery. This enables it to draw the large amounts of current required for the heating element. To make it easy to use with a variety of chargers out in the wild, it displays the current negotiated voltage and maximum current draw. This enables the user to understand the varying performance of the device, depending on the charger it’s plugged into.

Given the multitude of different USB power standards, we imagine [Nicolas] has the patience of a saint to perfect a project like this. We’ve seen similar builds before, too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Solder Ninja Dabbles In USB Power Arcana”

An Arduino Pro Micro With USB-C

USB-C versus USB Micro connectors are turning into one of the holy wars of our time. Rather than be left on the wrong side of the divide [Stefan S] has come up with his own USB-C version of of an Arduino Pro Micro to avoid having to always find a different cable.

Home made Arduinos come in all shapes and sizes from the conventional to the adventurous, and from the pictures it seems that this one is firmly in the former camp. The USB-C is present in connector form alone as the device is only capable of talking at the much slower speed of the ATMEGA32U4 processor, but having the newer connector should at least make cabling more accessible.

This is one of the most practical Arduino clones we’ve ever seen, but one of our other favourites is also a bit impractical.

USB-C: One Plug To Connect Them All, And In Confusion Bind Them

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and ever since its formation, the USB Implementers Forum have been working hard on the “Universal” part of the equation. USB Type-C, which is commonly called USB-C, is a connector standard that signals a significant new chapter in their epic quest to unify all wired connectivity in a single specification.

Many of us were introduced to this wonder plug in 2015 when Apple launched the 12-inch Retina MacBook. Apple’s decision to put everything on a single precious type-C port had its critics, but it was an effective showcase for a connector that could handle it all: from charging, to data transfer, to video output. Since then, it has gradually spread to more devices. But as the recent story on the Raspberry Pi 4’s flawed implementation of USB-C showed, the quest for a universal connector is a journey with frequent setbacks.

Continue reading “USB-C: One Plug To Connect Them All, And In Confusion Bind Them”

Hackaday Podcast 027: Confusingly USB-C, Glowey Displays, Logically VGA, Hackers Who Changed Gaming

Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys dive into the most interesting hacks of the week. Confused by USB-C? So are we, and so is the Raspberry Pi 4. Learning VGA is a lot easier when abstract concepts are unpacked onto a huge breadboard using logic chips and an EEPROM. Adding vision to a prosthetic hand makes a lot of sense when you start to dig into possibilities of this Hackaday Prize entry. And Elliot gets nostalgic about Counter-Strike, the game that is a hack of Half-Life, grew to eclipse a lot of other shooters, and is now 20 years old.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (52 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 027: Confusingly USB-C, Glowey Displays, Logically VGA, Hackers Who Changed Gaming”

Hackaday Links: July 7, 2019

Like modular synths? Sure you do, and you need another hole to throw money into! For the last few months, Supplyframe has been hosting synthesizer and electronic music meetups in San Francisco. This week, the HDDG/Piqued meetup will have a great talk with the creator of VCV Rack. VCV Rack is an Open Source, virtual, modular synthesizer — basically a bunch of Eurorack modules inside a computer and it costs a whole lot less. The talk is this Thursday evening in SF. You should come!

The W600 is a new module (you can get it from Seeed, although it’s produced by Winner Micro in various formats) that is basically an ESP32, except it uses an ARM Cortex-M3 instead of a Tensilica core. [ultratechie] recently got their hands on one of these modules and got started with MicroPython. This seems like a capable module and it’s only three dollars, but will that be enough to catch up to the ESP32?

Purple gorilla enters art gallery. At the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam there is a new exhibit featuring the, ‘destructive beauty of the computer virus’. The curators are detailing the historical progress of the computer virus from innocent DOS viruses to Melissa to Stuxnet and ransomware.

USB C has been around for a while, but 2019 is the year everything started to become USB C. Case in point: the Raspberry Pi 4. The only problem is that the Raspberry Pi Foundation messed up their implementation of USB C. Not a problem, because here’s how you design a USB C power sink. Basically, you give each CC line its own resistor. Don’t even think about it, just copy the USB C spec. You don’t know more about USB C than the people who designed it, and you’re not really saving a ton of money by deleting one resistor. Just copy the spec.