Blue Pill Gets a Refill

Researcher Joanna Rutkowska releases source code for a new version of her virtualization-based malware

LAS VEGAS -- Black Hat USA -- The researcher who created the Blue Pill has released code for it for the first time: Joanna Rutkowska made source code for the latest version of the virtualization-based malware available yesterday during her Black Hat presentation here.

Rutkowska, founder of Invisible Things Lab, said in an interview that the new version of Blue Pill, which she developed with colleague Alexander Tereshkin during the past couple of months, is source-code quality and has a few bugs, but the idea is to get the technology into the hands of researchers so they can study this form of malware further.

The release of code opens the door for another trio of researchers, who have challenged Rutkowska's claims that Blue Pill is undetectable. Thomas Ptacek, co-founder and researcher with Matasano Security; Nate Lawson, researcher at Root Labs; and Peter Ferrie, senior researcher at Symantec, yesterday released their rootkit detection platform. (See Tool Roots Out Virtualized Rootkits.)

Rutkowska says their claims are based on virtualization software detection, which she argues is different than detecting Blue Pill, the malware. "There's a distinction between what is just virtualization versus malware."

The underlying security problem, she says, is the lack of kernel protection in the operating system -- a problem that isn't likely to be resolved anytime soon.

The new Blue Pill comes with support for so-called "nested" hypervisors (think Blue Pill within a Blue Pill), and uses an architecture similar to that of the open-source Xen 3 virtual machine technology. It comes with "on the fly" loading and unloading features, as well as more features for avoiding detection, such as hibernating and temporarily uninstalling the hypervisor when Blue Pill detects that a tool is about to detect it.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Invisible Things Lab
  • Matasano Security LLC