Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

3/23/2009
08:08 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
50%
50%

Serious, Stealthy, Deadly BIOS Attack

After covering IT security for well more than a decade, few new attacks scare the freckles off of my back. This persistent BIOS attack, as demonstrated by Alfredo Ortega and Anibal Sacco from Core Security Technologies is one of these new attack techniques.

After covering IT security for well more than a decade, few new attacks scare the freckles off of my back. This persistent BIOS attack, as demonstrated by Alfredo Ortega and Anibal Sacco from Core Security Technologies is one of these new attack techniques.One of the scariest malware trends in recent years has been the rise in attention toward rootkits. However, it hasn't been easy developing rootkits that can go undetected. Yet, as they detailed at last week's CanSecWest security conference, it's possible to infect the low-level system instructions of a PC BIOS (basic input/output system) and be undetectable.

Essentially, the BIOS is the instruction set given to the computer before the operating system has loaded -- which also means long before any anti-malware software is protecting the system.

According to the researchers, they insert a small piece of code into the BIOS, and they get complete control of the machine. Most disturbing: the code inserted in the BIOS will survive through re-boots, hard-drive wipes, and attempts at reflashing the BIOS. Ortega and Sacco demonstrated successful attacks on Windows, OpenBSD, and on an OS within WMware Player.

From an entry at the ThreatPost blog:

"It was very easy. We can put the code wherever we want," said Ortega. "We're not using a vulnerability in any way. I'm not sure if you understand the impact of this. We can reinfect the BIOS every time it reboots."

The good news is an attacker needs to have a machine where they have "root" privileges, or they need physical access to a machine. While this attack won't be prevalent over the Internet: would you know if the BIOS in one the machines on your corporate network was altered, and infected in a way that no traditional firewall or antimalware application would pickup?

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/2/2020
Ripple20 Threatens Increasingly Connected Medical Devices
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/30/2020
DDoS Attacks Jump 542% from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020
Dark Reading Staff 6/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-9498
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
Apache Guacamole 1.1.0 and older may mishandle pointers involved inprocessing data received via RDP static virtual channels. If a userconnects to a malicious or compromised RDP server, a series ofspecially-crafted PDUs could result in memory corruption, possiblyallowing arbitrary code to be executed...
CVE-2020-3282
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
A vulnerability in the web-based management interface of Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unified Communications Manager Session Management Edition, Cisco Unified Communications Manager IM & Presence Service, and Cisco Unity Connection could allow an unauthenticated, remote attack...
CVE-2020-5909
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, when users run the command displayed in NGINX Controller user interface (UI) to fetch the agent installer, the server TLS certificate is not verified.
CVE-2020-5910
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, the Neural Autonomic Transport System (NATS) messaging services in use by the NGINX Controller do not require any form of authentication, so any successful connection would be authorized.
CVE-2020-5911
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, the NGINX Controller installer starts the download of Kubernetes packages from an HTTP URL On Debian/Ubuntu system.