Feeds

New attack bypasses virtually all AV protection

Bait, switch, exploit!

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Researchers say they've devised a way to bypass protections built in to dozens of the most popular desktop anti-virus products, including those offered by McAfee, Trend Micro, AVG, and BitDefender.

The method, developed by software security researchers at matousec.com, works by exploiting the driver hooks the anti-virus programs bury deep inside the Windows operating system. In essence, it works by sending them a sample of benign code that passes their security checks and then, before it's executed, swaps it out with a malicious payload.

The exploit has to be timed just right so the benign code isn't switched too soon or too late. But for systems running on multicore processors, matousec's "argument-switch" attack is fairly reliable because one thread is often unable to keep track of other simultaneously running threads. As a result, the vast majority of malware protection offered for Windows PCs can be tricked into allowing malicious code that under normal conditions would be blocked.

All that's required is that the AV software use SSDT, or System Service Descriptor Table, hooks to modify parts of the OS kernel.

"We have performed tests with [most of] today's Windows desktop security products," the researchers wrote. "The results can be summarized in one sentence: If a product uses SSDT hooks or other kind of kernel mode hooks on similar level to implement security features it is vulnerable. In other words, 100% of the tested products were found vulnerable."

The researchers listed 34 products that they said were susceptible to the attack, but the list was limited by the amount of time they had for testing. "Otherwise, the list would be endless," they said.

The technique works even when Windows is running under an account with limited privileges.

Still, the exploit has its limitations. It requires a large amount of code to be loaded onto the targeted machine, making it impractical for shellcode-based attacks or attacks that rely on speed and stealth. It can also be carried out only when an attacker already has the ability to run a binary on the targeted PC.

Still, the technique might be combined with an exploit of another piece of software, say, a vulnerable version of Adobe Reader or Oracle's Java Virtual Machine to install malware without arousing the suspicion of the any AV software the victim was using.

"Realistic scenario: someone uses McAfee or another affected product to secure their desktops," H D Moore, CSO and Chief Architect of the Metasploit project, told The Register in an instant message. "A malware developer abuses this race condition to bypass the system call hooks, allowing the malware to install itself and remove McAfee. In that case, all of the 'protection' offered by the product is basically moot."

A user without administrative rights could also use the attack to kill an installed and running AV, even though only admin accounts should be able to do this, Charlie Miller, principal security analyst at Independent Security Evaluators, said.

Matousec.com's research is here. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
Crooks fling banking Trojan at Japanese smut site fans
Wait - they're doing online banking with an unpatched Windows PC?
NIST told to grow a pair and kick NSA to the curb
Lrn2crypto, oversight panel tells US govt's algorithm bods
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.