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
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-0334
Published: 2014-10-31
Bundler before 1.7, when multiple top-level source lines are used, allows remote attackers to install arbitrary gems by creating a gem with the same name as another gem in a different source.

CVE-2014-2334
Published: 2014-10-31
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in the Web User Interface in Fortinet FortiAnalyzer before 5.0.7 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-2336.

CVE-2014-2335
Published: 2014-10-31
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in the Web User Interface in Fortinet FortiManager before 5.0.7 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-2336.

CVE-2014-2336
Published: 2014-10-31
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in the Web User Interface in Fortinet FortiManager before 5.0.7 and FortiAnalyzer before 5.0.7 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-2334 and CVE-2014-2335.

CVE-2014-3366
Published: 2014-10-31
SQL injection vulnerability in the administrative web interface in Cisco Unified Communications Manager allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary SQL commands via a crafted response, aka Bug ID CSCup88089.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.