PhyWhisperer-USB Python Controlled USB 2.0 Sniffer Enables USB Security Testing (Crowdfunding)

PhyWhisperer-USB is a hardware USB sniffer & triggering platform that allows users to test the security of USB devices using side-channel power analysis and fault injection using a Python 3 interface, beside simply capturing packets.

This has become especially important now as some USB devices include Bitcoin Wallets, FIDO2 keys, and encrypted drives with valuable data.


PhyWhisperer-USB hardware specifications:

  • FPGA – Xilinx Spartan 7S15 with 12,800 logic cells
  • USB
    • USB 2.0 Low/Full/High Speed mode
    • PC connection – Micro-USB 2.0 HS port
    • Host connection – Micro-USB port
    • Target connection – USB-A female connector
    • Trigger pattern – 1 – 64 bytes with mask
    • Trigger delay – 0 – 1048576‬ cycles of 240 MHz internal clock derived from USB clock
    • USB sniffer FIFO – 8192 bytes (FPGA block RAM, adjustable depending on FPGA utilization)
  • Expansion – Spare digital I/O: 8 data pins, 1 clock pin routed to FPGA (on front panel)
  • Clock output – 60 MHz
  • Target Power Source – Selectable: Host USB or Control PC

PhyWhisperer-USB Board

PhyWhisperer-USB HW Block Diagram
HW Block Diagram

The equipment is controlled with PC software written in Python 3 that works in Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Some of the highlights of PhyWhisperer-USB include:

  • Hardware-level Sniffing – PhyWhisperer-USB can watch the USB bus to monitor errors and other events that won’t make it into a software-only sniffer. It also generates a clock synchronized to the USB bus itself, giving perfect cycle-accurate timing and allowing very repeatable power measurements.
  • Portable and Extendable – The box also connects nicely to other tools (ChipWhisperer, ChipSHOUTER, GreatFET, oscilloscope) to provide extended features all controlled by one Python script.
  • Open Source – It’s open source with spare FPGA room and a built-in programmer to reload the FPGA bitstream. You’ll find the hardware, firmware, and software on Github.

USB Sniffer ComparisonThe table above compares PhyWhisperer-USB to various commercially available tools, as well as Rhododendron which adds hardware sniffing to GreatFET. For even more USB tools and details, you can check out a recent presentation by Kate Temkin and Mikaela Szekely at Teardown 2019.

PhyWhisperer-USB has launched on Crowd Supply with a symbolic $1 funding target. Rewards start at $225 for the PhyWhisperer-USB kit which comes with a PhyWhisperer-USB in an enclosure, an MCX to SMA cable, an MCX to BNC cable, and two micro-USB cables. Other perks are also available in different quantities. Shipping is free to the US but adds $12 to the rest of the world. Backers should expect their reward(s) to ship around December 2019.

Share this:

Support CNX Software! Donate via cryptocurrencies, become a Patron on Patreon, or purchase goods on Amazon or Aliexpress

ROCK 5 ITX RK3588 mini-ITX motherboard
Notify of
The comment form collects your name, email and content to allow us keep track of the comments placed on the website. Please read and accept our website Terms and Privacy Policy to post a comment.
Khadas VIM4 SBC