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Perimeter

3/10/2010
07:55 PM
Wolfgang Kandek
Wolfgang Kandek
Commentary
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Energizer Bunny Gone Bad

Along with the usual security alerts covering the March bulletins from Microsoft and various content management systems flaws, US CERT published an unusual security alert about a product from Energizer, the battery company.

Along with the usual security alerts covering the March bulletins from Microsoft and various content management systems flaws, US CERT published an unusual security alert about a product from Energizer, the battery company.It turns out that the charge monitoring software for its Duo Charger (Duo = charge with USB and wall socket) for Windows PCs installs a backdoor on your machine that allows an attacker to read and write arbitrary files on your PC. The Trojan horse is a simple, straightforward design and is defeated by any external NAT'ing firewall. It opens a listening port on the infected machine and waits for incoming commands, rather than reaching out to a server and retrieving commands.

The alert is newsworthy because of the delivery method:

  • A well-known company, Energizer, produces the software.
  • Energizer digitally signs the software.
  • The software is advertised on the packaging in English, French, and Spanish (see photo, below), as well as in the product manual.
This would have easily fooled me and other IT professionals because we habitually agree to the installation of software and device drivers whenever we connect new devices to our machines. The common antivirus scanners are only now catching up with their signatures, after the product has been pulled from store shelves, so they would have been of no help in this case. When the software runs for the first time, it requests an firewall exemption, which might have made me question its validity, but is actually a component by Microsoft that fields the request on behalf of the Energizer software, further inducing trust.

This case illustrates one of the big challenges of the Internet: who to trust to provide our information and digital goods. A number of companies are attempting to address this challenge, but we are still far away from mature and accepted solutions.



-- As the CTO for Qualys, Wolfgang Kandek is responsible for product direction and all operational aspects of the QualysGuard platform and its infrastructure. Wolfgang has more than 20 years of experience in developing and managing information systems. His focus has been on Unix-based server architectures and application delivery through the Internet. Wolfgang provides the latest commentary on his blog: laws.qualys.com and also publishes his Patch Tuesday commentary to the QualysGuard channel: www.youtube.com/QualysGuard. He is a frequent source in business and trade media and speaks at industry conferences around the world, most recently at RSA 2010.

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