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

1/4/2011
03:47 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Stealth Rootkit Steals Windows 7, Server 2008 User Privileges 'On The Fly'

Researcher plans to hand off code to antivirus vendors, and then to EC-Council for ethical hacking training

A European researcher has created a rootkit that can evade detection in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 machines and reset user passwords.

The rootkit, created by Csaba Barta during the past two-and-half years, was initially a project meant for training purposes. But Barta, a security expert for Deloitte in Hungary who works on penetration testing and forensic cases, says he eventually discovered he could perform new types of attacks with the rootkit, which he plans to deliver to antivirus firms as well as to the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) for its certified hacker training program.

Barta demonstrated the rootkit for the first time at the recent Hacker Halted conferences in Miami and Cairo. One particularly powerful module of the rootkit is based on the concept of a so-called cached data attack, which had previously been explored by researcher Brendan Dolan-Gavitt, who looked at how Windows handles registry in memory and how a forensic investigator can extract that from the physical memory image, according to Barta.

The cached data attack has to do with how the OS caches data in physical memory. It lets an attacker clear and reset passwords in memory without being detected by the operating system, for example. "After some research on this subject, I ended up in a different solution that allowed the rootkit to temporarily blank the password hash even when the user is logged on. According to my knowledge, the technique mentioned in [Dolan-Gavitt's] article was to modify one specific instance of the hash and after that the user had to do a logout/login in order for the OS to use the new hash," Barta says. "The cached data attack is an attack that is based on the fact that the OS caches data in physical memory in order to use it. If you are able to modify this data you are able to fool the OS to use the modified data."

Barta's rootkit works on most 32-bit versions of Windows, and its ability to steal user privileges on the fly is especially useful, he says. "[You can] start processes on behalf of them without being noticed, even if detailed process tracking is turned on," Barta says.

It also hides files and directories, performs keyboard-logging, and can temporarily "blank" a local user's password even when he is logged in.

"On one side we are very proud of Csaba's results, but on the other hand it is a sad evidence of the fact that there are hidden attacks that surface all the time," says Sean Lim, vice president of the EC-Council. "We plan to incorporate the rootkit in the CEHv7 Training Material to make our students aware of the risks."

Barta says he will try to ensure that AV companies include the rootkit in their scanning databases before he releases the binaries in the CEHv7 training material.

Why the special attention to this particular rootkit? "There are rootkits embedded in malware, but the functionality of them is limited to certain functions," he says.

Even so, rootkits take expertise to pull off. New 64-bit versions of Windows that digitally sign drivers make it more difficult to plant a rootkit in the kernel, Barta notes. "One [needs] really strong basics in using tools, such as a kernel debugger and programming languages like assembly and C, in order to start the implementation [as well]," he says. The attacker first must gain administrative rights to the system, which means unleashing an exploit, password-cracking, or socially engineering it, he says.

Barta says he will continue to add features to his rootkit, including adding network-layer functions, he says. But don't look for him to release the code itself -- he says he won't do that.

"Although developing a rootkit is considered old-school, I think that it is really interesting. By doing it you can really understand how an OS is working. It is also a very precious knowledge in the field of computer forensics," he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 9/21/2020
Hacking Yourself: Marie Moe and Pacemaker Security
Gary McGraw Ph.D., Co-founder Berryville Institute of Machine Learning,  9/21/2020
Startup Aims to Map and Track All the IT and Security Things
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-8344
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Notes: none.
CVE-2020-8347
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
A reflective cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability was reported in Lenovo Enterprise Network Disk prior to version 6.1 patch 6 hotfix 4 that could allow execution of code in an authenticated user's browser if a crafted url is visited, possibly through phishing.
CVE-2020-8348
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
A DOM-based cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability was reported in Lenovo Enterprise Network Disk prior to version 6.1 patch 6 hotfix 4 that could allow execution of code in an authenticated user's current browser session if a crafted url is visited, possibly through phishing.
CVE-2020-15850
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
Insecure permissions in Nakivo Backup & Replication Director version 9.4.0.r43656 on Linux allow local users to access the Nakivo Director web interface and gain root privileges. This occurs because the database containing the users of the web application and the password-recovery secret value i...
CVE-2020-15851
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
Lack of access control in Nakivo Backup & Replication Transporter version 9.4.0.r43656 allows remote users to access unencrypted backup repositories and the Nakivo Controller configuration via a network accessible transporter service. It is also possible to create or delete backup repositories.