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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Hackers thrash Bash Shellshock bug: World races to cover hole
Update your gear now to avoid early attacks hitting the web
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
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.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.