Vulnerabilities / Threats
3/27/2009
04:23 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Rootkit Attack Hard To Kill

BIOS-based hack demonstrated by Core Security Technologies evades antivirus software

Researchers have come up with a way to create an even stealthier rootkit that survives reboots and evades antivirus software.

Anibal Sacco and Alfredo Ortega, both exploit writers for Core Security Technologies, were able to inject a rootkit into commercial BIOS firmware using their own Python-based tool that installed the rootkit via an update, or flash, process.

This more "persistent" rootkit is more dangerous than a regular rootkit because it could use the BIOS-located network stack to attack other machines, as well as "using normal exploits, without any access to the disk or memory in the operating system," the researchers said.

The concept of BIOS-based rootkits is nothing new in the research community. But Sacco and Ortega took it up a notch with a generic implementation that can work across various operating systems and ultimately give an attacker control of the infected machine. The researchers were able to successfully attack OpenBSD and Windows machines with the BIOS code injection attack.

They also say virtual machines are prone to this attack, as well. BIOS is embedded in the main VM process of VMWare, for instance.

Still, the attack is relatively sophisticated, and the attacker must have administrative rights to the targeted machine before he or she can flash the rootkit to the BIOS.

Such a rootkit is difficult to eradicate, too: Even wiping the hard drive and reinstalling the OS won't get rid of the rootkit, the researchers say. That's because the rootkit runs without a hard disk, and because it runs before any other code on a machine, it could let the attacker deactivate AV software as well, Sacco and Ortega say.

What's the best defense against such an attack? The researchers say it's tough to prevent any attack from an advanced rootkit like this. The best options, they say, are to prevent the flashing of the BIOS by enabling "write" protection on the motherboard, or deploying digitally signed BIOSes, for instance.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-8142
Published: 2014-12-20
Use-after-free vulnerability in the process_nested_data function in ext/standard/var_unserializer.re in PHP before 5.4.36, 5.5.x before 5.5.20, and 5.6.x before 5.6.4 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted unserialize call that leverages improper handling of duplicate keys w...

CVE-2013-4440
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 generates weak non-tty passwords, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the password via a brute-force attack.

CVE-2013-4442
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 uses weak pseudo generated numbers when /dev/urandom is unavailable, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the numbers.

CVE-2013-7401
Published: 2014-12-19
The parse_request function in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a URI without a " " or "?" character in an ICAP request, as demonstrated by use of the OPTIONS method.

CVE-2014-2026
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the search functionality in United Planet Intrexx Professional before 5.2 Online Update 0905 and 6.x before 6.0 Online Update 10 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the request parameter.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.