Feeds

Researchers dig into x86 chips for stealthier rootkits

Hiding under the radar

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Security researchers have discovered a new technique for developing rootkits, malicious packages used to hide the presence of malware on compromised systems.

Instead of hiding a rootkit in the virtualisation layer, Shawn Embleton and Sherri Sparks of Clear Hat Consulting have discovered an approach for smuggling rootkit technology into System Management Mode (SMM), an isolated memory and execution environment supported in Intel chips that's designed to handle problems such as memory errors and the like.

By running rootkits in SMM, miscreants could make hidden malware harder to detect, since they're hiding code in an area anti-virus scanners don't check. Embleton and Sparks are due to present their research, along with a proof of concept demonstration, at the Black Hat conference in Vegas in August.

An abstract for their talk explains; "SMM code is invisible to the Operating System yet retains full access to host physical memory and complete control over peripheral hardware. We will demo a proof of concept SMM rootkit that functions as a chipset level keylogger. Our rootkit hides its memory footprint, makes no changes to the host Operating System, and is capable of covertly exfiltrating sensitive data across the network while evading essentially all host based intrusion detection systems and firewalls."

While keeping the rootkit well away from the operating system makes the malicious code more stealthy, it also introduces problems. Hackers would need to develop device specific driver code, a factor that makes attacks far more difficult. "I don't see it as a widespread threat, because it's very hardware-dependent," Sparks told PC World. "You would see this in a targeted attack."

Rootkit technology is set to become a major theme of Black Hat this year, according to a preliminary agenda. And Embleton and Sparks look to be stars of the show. As well as giving a talk entitled A New Breed of Rootkit: The System Management Mode (SMM) Rootkit the duo are scheduled to present a talk on a proof of concept 'chipset' level rootkit. Other presentations in the Root Kit Arms Race track at Black Hat will investigate defensive techniques. ®

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
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
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.