Feeds

Researchers poke holes in Intel's anti-tampering tech

Unlocked and loaded

Security for virtualized datacentres

A practical attack on Intel's trusted execution technology (TXT) is due to be demonstrated at a hacking conference next month.

Security researchers from Invisible Things Lab have created a technique for compromising the integrity of software loaded via TXT, a key component in Intel's Safer Computing Initiative and part of the chip giant's vPro brand. Intel's TXT technology - which aims to protect systems against tampering - hooks into CPUs and chipsets as well as featuring use of Trusted Platform Module 1.2 (TPM) technology.

For example, the technology ensures programs running on a virtual machine are free to go about their business without interference from other (potentially malicious) packages loaded onto the same system. It also has applications in Digital Rights Management.

Invisible Things Lab's Rafal Wojtczuk and Joanna Rutkowska, best known for her extensive work on Vista kernel security and rootkits, have created a two-stage approach for defeating this technology.

The first part of the attack relies on exploiting an as-yet unspecified vulnerability in Intel's system software. Part two involves bypassing the TXT technology itself. A demo of the technique is due to take place at a presentation at the Black Hat conference in Washington DC on 18-19 February.

A statement by Invisible Things (extract below) explains the general approach, without going into details.

Our research shows how an attacker can compromise the integrity of a software loaded via an Intel TXT-based loader in a generic way. We have created a proof-of-concept code that demonstrates the successful attack against tboot — Intel's implementation of the trusted boot process for Xen and Linux.

Our attack comprises two stages. The first stage requires an implementation flaw in a specific system software. The second stage of the attack is possible thanks to a certain design decision made in the current TXT release.

Warsaw, Poland-based Invisible Things is working with Intel towards hardening its technology to defend against the attack. Intel has promised to release an updated TXT specification to developers that explains how to armour plate TXT-based loaders so as to thwart potential assaults.

Intel TXT/vPro compatible hardware has been shipping for only a year so the impact of weaknesses in the technology is less than it might be if the technology was already widely deployed. The Xen hypervisor is one of the few currently widely used products to rely on the technology. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.