On Sunday, Kate Temkin and Mikaela Szekely presented Making USB Accessible: Developing Ultra-low-cost, Open USB Tools at Teardown 2019 in Portland. In this well-received talk, they debuted ViewSB, a USB analyzer that supports various capture backends including GreatFET, OpenVizsla, and usbmon.
In the days leading up to the talk, Kate went on a tear, developing ViewSB to complement the hardware solutions for USB capture that she and Mikaela had been working on. I asked, “Why do we need ViewSB when we already have tools such as PulseView and Wireshark?”
Her answer was that the existing open source software tools for USB analysis don’t present data in a way that is useful enough for USB developers. I recalled my past confusion about USB nomenclature and how the most essential thing I learned from Kate’s training class at hardwaresecurity.training last year had been an understanding of the differences between USB packets, transactions, and transfers. Thinking back to the tools we used in that class, I realized that she was right that a new tool was needed. In fact, the limitations of the existing tools were probably largely responsible for my confusion!
As you can see in this video, ViewSB presents low level USB packet data in a visual format that groups packets together into transactions, something that I had previously seen only in software for proprietary USB analyzers. It makes USB much easier to understand. I wholeheartedly agree with Mikaela and Kate that their work makes USB accessible!
Code used in the presentation can be found in the usb-tools organization on GitHub.