Home Business IT Security New generation malware for PCs and routers could be very persistent

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Security researchers warn that the firmware in PCs and routers could be subverted for nefarious purposes.

Malware for PCs is an established part of life. Keeping the operating system and applications up to date helps (a vulnerability that's been removed can't be exploited), as does decent security software.

And if the worst comes to the worst, there's always the possibility of completely wiping the hard drive and starting from scratch.

But a security researcher has shown that a small malware loader can be concealed in the BIOS or other firmware built into a PC.

If multiple pieces of firmware (eg in the network card as well as the BIOS) were subverted in this way, the malware could even survive replacement of the BIOS.

Jonathan Brossard demonstrated this approach at the recent Black Hat conference in the US. The routine hidden in the BIOS connects to a remote server to fetch the code that does the dirty work.

Unlike conventional malware, this leaves no trace on the hard drive for later analysis as the rogue code is freshly downloaded each time.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.

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