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 Must Reads - September 25, 2014
Dark Reading's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of identity and access management. Learn about access control in the age of HTML5, how to improve authentication, why Active Directory is dead, and more.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-6278
Published: 2014-09-30
GNU Bash through 4.3 bash43-026 does not properly parse function definitions in the values of environment variables, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via a crafted environment, as demonstrated by vectors involving the ForceCommand feature in OpenSSH sshd, the mod_cgi and m...

CVE-2014-6805
Published: 2014-09-30
The weibo (aka magic.weibo) application 1.2 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-6806
Published: 2014-09-30
The Thanodi - Setswana Translator (aka com.thanodi.thanodi) application 1.0.0 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-6807
Published: 2014-09-30
The OLA School (aka com.conduit.app_00f9890a4f0145f2aae9d714e20b273a.app) application 1.2.7.132 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-6808
Published: 2014-09-30
The Active 24 (aka com.zentity.app.active24) application 1.0.1 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In our next Dark Reading Radio broadcast, we’ll take a close look at some of the latest research and practices in application security.