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?

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Look Beyond the 'Big 5' in Cyberattacks
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  11/25/2020
Why Vulnerable Code Is Shipped Knowingly
Chris Eng, Chief Research Officer, Veracode,  11/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: I think the boss is bing watching '70s TV shows again!
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-26250
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-01
OAuthenticator is an OAuth login mechanism for JupyterHub. In oauthenticator from version 0.12.0 and before 0.12.2, the deprecated (in jupyterhub 1.2) configuration `Authenticator.whitelist`, which should be transparently mapped to `Authenticator.allowed_users` with a warning, is instead ignored by ...
CVE-2020-28576
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-01
An improper access control information disclosure vulnerability in Trend Micro Apex One and OfficeScan XG SP1 could allow an unauthenticated user to connect to the product server and reveal version and build information.
CVE-2020-28577
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-01
An improper access control information disclosure vulnerability in Trend Micro Apex One and OfficeScan XG SP1 could allow an unauthenticated user to connect to the product server and reveal server hostname and db names.
CVE-2020-28582
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-01
An improper access control information disclosure vulnerability in Trend Micro Apex One and OfficeScan XG SP1 could allow an unauthenticated user to connect to the product server and reveal number of managed agents.
CVE-2020-28583
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-01
An improper access control information disclosure vulnerability in Trend Micro Apex One and OfficeScan XG SP1 could allow an unauthenticated user to connect to the product server and reveal version, build and patch information.