Feeds

Windows 8

Apple iOS 7 makes some users literally SICK. As in puking, not upset

Excessive zoom and 3D-effect graphics in Apple's latest iOS is leaving some users reaching for the sick bucket

New vicious UEFI bootkit vuln found for Windows 8

Arr, 'tis typical: Redmond swabs lag behind OS X, again

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Security researchers have discovered security shortcomings in Windows 8 that create a means to infect the upcoming operating system with rootkit-style malware.

Italian security consultants ITSEC discovered the security hole following an analysis of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), a successor to the legacy BIOS firmware interface, that Microsoft began fully supporting with 64-bit versions of Windows 7.

ITSEC analysed the UEFI platform now that Microsoft has ported old BIOS and MBR's boot loader to the new UEFI technology in Windows 8. Andrea Allievi, a senior security researcher at ITSEC, was able to use the research to cook up what's billed as the first ever UEFI bootkit designed to hit Windows 8. The proof-of-concept malware is able to defeat Windows 8's Kernel Patch Protection and Driver Signature Enforcement policy.

The UEFI boot loader developed by Allievi overwrites the legitimate Windows 8 UEFI bootloader, bypassing security defences in the process.

"Our bootloader hooked the UEFI disk I/O routines and it intercepted the loading of the Windows 8 kernel, thus our bootkit tampered the kernel by disabling the security features used by Windows to prevent the loading of unsigned drivers," explains Marco Giuliani, a director of ITSEC.

The bootkit developed by ITSEC is comparable to forms of older MBR (Master Boot Record) rootkits that overwrite system files of older version of Windows. Bootkits capable of taking over Windows 8 machines have been around since last November but these earlier proof-of-concept nasties didn't circumvent UEFI, unlike the latest research.

Previously boot loaders and rootkits had to be developed in assembly language. But UEFI creates a means to develop system loaders much more straightforwardly using the easier C programming language, making thing easier for both legitimate developers and VXers.

"Our research attempts to show the industry that the new UEFI platform is still as insecure as the old BIOS technology, it's still vulnerable to the old attacks if the SecureBoot technology is not turned on by default," Giuliani told El Reg. "Writing a bootkit couldn't be an easier task for virus writers with the UEFI framework available, much easier than before when they needed to code in pure assembly.

"The UEFI platform will soon become the new field of war between malware writers and the security industry unless SecureBoot is used to ensure that only digitally signed UEFI bootloaders can be executed at the system bootup."

Giuliani also said that - although it's desirable from a security perspective - enabling SecureBoot by default effectively limits user choice.

ITSEC's detailed technical analysis of the Windows 8 implementation of UEFI, and its potential security shortcomings, can be found here.

The research by ITSEC follows the creation of a UEFI bootkit able to infect Mac's OS X operating systems, which was unveiled at this year's edition of the BlackHat Conference in Las Vegas by Australian security researchers Assurance. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
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
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.