Feeds

Virtual rootkits create stealth risk

MS researchers grapple with phantom malware

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Security researchers have uncovered new techniques to hide the presence of malware on infected systems. By hiding rootkit software in virtual machine environments, hackers have the potential to avoid detection by security software, boffins at Microsoft Research and the University of Michigan warn.

To validate their concerns the researchers created proof-of-concept code, called SubVirt, which takes advantage of security vulnerabilities to load a VMM (virtual machine monitor) beneath either a Windows (Windows/VirtualPC) or Linux (Linux/VMWare)installation, eWeek reports. SubVirt loads four malicious service onto compromised machines including a phishing web server, a keystroke logger and anti-security software countermeasures.

In one attack scenario, security vulnerabilities might be used to gain administrative rights to a target machine. This access might then be used to manipulate a system boot sequence to load a virtual machine rootkit. Thereafter, attackers are free to deploy other malicious software that hides from detection.

"Any code running within an attack OS is effectively invisible. The ability to run invisible malicious services in an attack OS gives intruders the freedom to use user-mode code with less fear of detection," the researchers said.

Existing anti-rootkit tools commonly rely on comparing file system and API discrepancies to check for the presence of rootkits, a technique that wouldn't be able to unearth virtual machine malware. The researchers hope their work will help security firms adapt their technology in order to combat the new class of threat.

Hardware detection, low-level security software and booting from a safe medium are all possible countermeasures. The team is due to present its findings at an IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy later this year. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.