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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

4/3/2018
05:30 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Attack Vector Shows Dangers of S3 Sleep Mode

Researchers at Black Hat Asia demonstrated how they can compromise the security of a machine as it powers down and wakes up.

Two researchers at Black Hat Asia last month gave computers a reason to sleep with one eye open in their demo of "S3 Sleep," a new attack vector used to subvert the Intel Trusted eXecution Environment (TXT). A flaw in Intel TXT lets hackers compromise a machine as it wakes up.

Intel TXT is the hardware-based functionality that supports the dynamic root-of-trust measurement (DRTM) and validates the platform's trustworthiness during boot and launch. This attack targets trusted boot (tBoot), a reference implementation of Intel TXT normally used in server environments. tBoot is an open-source project that protects the virtual machine monitor (VMM) and operating system.

Senior security researcher Seunghun Han and security researcher Jun-Hyeok Park, both with the National Security Research Institute of South Korea, presented an exploit of the "Lost Pointer" vulnerability (CVE-2017-16837), a software flaw in tBoot. This specific attack vector has never been reported, the two said at Black Hat, and attackers only need root privilege to do it.

Researchers have investigated Intel TXT and tBoot before, the researchers explained. However, previous studies have only focused on the boot process. This one focuses on the sleeping and waking up sequence of tBoot, and how attackers could exploit a machine as it reactivates.

Securing the sleep states

Sure, you could avoid this kind of attack by keeping machines running constantly, so Han started their Black Hat session by pointing out the financial reasons for sleep mode. "Power consumption is cost," Han explained. "Many companies worry about power consumption for their products because lower power consumption means a lower electricity fee."

Shutting down machines dramatically reduces power consumption; however, reactivating all of their components poses a security risk. As the computer wakes up, restarting its many parts takes time and security devices might be temporarily shut down for part of the process.

PC, laptop, and server environments supporting advanced configuration and power interface (ACPI) have six sleeping states to gradually reduce power consumption as the machine shuts down. The states go from S0 to S5 as the CPU, devices, and RAM go into full sleep mode. Power to the CPU and devices is cut off at the S3 phase of sleep.

"Because of power-off, their states need to be restored and reinitialized for waking up," says Han. "If we intercept sleep and waking up, we can do something interesting."

There are boot protection mechanisms, Park says. The secure boot of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) checks a cryptographic signature of the binary prior to execution, and stops it if the executable file lacks a valid signature. "Measured boot" measures a hash of the binary prior to execution and stores the measurement to the Trusted Platform Module (TPM).

TPM is a hardware security device widely deployed in commercial devices, Han says. It's designed with a random number generator, encryption functions, and Platform Configuration Registers (PCRs), which store hashes and can be used to seal data like Bitlocker, he explains.

The danger of sleep mode

When the system wakes up, it should turn on the security functions of the CPU and recover the PCRs of the TPM. However, because of the Lost Pointer flaw, tBoot doesn't measure all function pointers. Certain pointers in tBoot are not validated and can cause arbitrary code execution.

By exploiting the Lost Pointer flaw on a machine in S3 sleep mode, Han and Park found they can forge PCR values while a system sleeps and wakes up. If they can make the PCR variables whatever they want, attackers can subvert the Intel TXT security mechanism.

The researchers advise updating your tBoot to the latest version, or disabling the sleep feature in the BIOS, to protect against this kind of attack.

Related Content:

Interop ITX 2018

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two cybersecurity summits at Interop ITX. Learn from the industry’s most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the security track here. Register with Promo Code DR200 and save $200.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Why Cyber-Risk Is a C-Suite Issue
Marc Wilczek, Digital Strategist & CIO Advisor,  11/12/2019
Unreasonable Security Best Practices vs. Good Risk Management
Jack Freund, Director, Risk Science at RiskLens,  11/13/2019
Breaches Are Inevitable, So Embrace the Chaos
Ariel Zeitlin, Chief Technology Officer & Co-Founder, Guardicore,  11/13/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2016-5285
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-15
Null pointer dereference vulnerability exists in K11_SignWithSymKey / ssl3_ComputeRecordMACConstantTime in NSS before 3.26, which causes the TLS/SSL server using NSS to crash.
CVE-2009-5047
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-15
Jetty 6.x before 6.1.22 suffers from an escape sequence injection vulnerability from two different vectors: 1) "Cookie Dump Servlet" and 2) Http Content-Length header. 1) A POST request to the form at "/test/cookie/" with the "Age" parameter set to a string throws a &qu...
CVE-2013-4584
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-15
Perdition before 2.2 may have weak security when handling outbound connections, caused by an error in the STARTTLS IMAP and POP server. ssl_outgoing_ciphers not being applied to STARTTLS connections
CVE-2013-7087
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-15
ClamAV before 0.97.7 has WWPack corrupt heap memory
CVE-2013-7088
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-15
ClamAV before 0.97.7 has buffer overflow in the libclamav component