Blog Entry

Aug 13
2013 

Dongles – How to Go Driverless and Stay Secure

When is the last time that you used a new USB drive or external USB device, and the device asked you to download a driver to make it functional? If you’re like me, downloading device drivers is a distant memory. USB devices have gotten smarter and more user-friendly.

This raises the following question: why shouldn’t I enjoy the same seamless user experience in my software protection USB dongle?

After all, software protection dongles look similar to commercial USB drives. Well, even though they look the same on the outside, a software protection dongle may need a driver to prevent listening in the USB port. In the security world, requiring a driver is still widely acceptable because it has historically been an important part of the technology.

For user experience, however, driverless products are highly desired, but how do you do provide a driverless software protection dongle in a way that does not compromise its security?

At SafeNet, I work on the software protection product team that is developing driverless key models. These products will use the same communication protocol as an external USB mouse which is HID (human interface device).

In the recent product release of Sentinel HL, we took the leap into driverless dongle models. By using a white-box based secure communication tunnel, we were able to achieve enhanced security while providing users an improved experience with our dongles. How did we do this?

  1. The new secure communication tunnels use random session ID technology to prevent listening and recording data between sessions.
  2. By using packet counters, we prevented the replay of data within the same session
  3. White-box cryptography breaks the session key, preventing it from appearing in the memory.

The result is the industry’s first white-box secure communication tunnel applied to HID dongles.

Driverless and security…now you get both.