Security Market Segment LS
Friday, 07 August 2015 15:04

And not even Wintel is safe


At the annual Black Hat conference delegates have been shown a new exploit for Intel and AMD x86 central processor units that has hitherto existed since 1977!

Shock horror - attackers could use this to install a rootkit in the low-level firmware that could be undetectable by security products. Well, if it 5% of the Worlds Windows/Intel computers are taken out! it until now then thank goodness we caught it in time and can do somethhas been around since 1977 and no one has found it until now then thank goodness we caught it in time and can do something about it before 95% of the Worlds Windows/Intel (and AMD) computers are taken out!

Christopher Domas, a security researcher with the Battelle Memorial Institute, discovered the flaw. “By leveraging the flaw, attackers could install a rootkit in the processors System Management Mode (SMM), a protected region of code that underpins all the firmware security features in modern computers. Once installed, the rootkit could be used for destructive attacks like wiping the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) the modern BIOS or even to re-infect the OS after a clean install. Protection features like Secure Boot wouldn’t help, because they too rely on the SMM to be secure. The attack essentially breaks the hardware roots of trust,” Domas said.

Domas says Intel is now aware of the issue and has mitigated it in its latest CPUs. It is also rolling out firmware updates for older processors, but not all of them can be patched. In fact patching a billion or so PCs that use Intel/AMD CPU’s will never happen.

To exploit the vulnerability and install the rootkit, attackers would need to already have kernel or system privileges on a computer. That means the flaw can’t be used by itself to compromise a system, but could make an existing malware infection highly persistent and completely invisible.


The Black Hat Conference is a cornucopia of bad things that could be exploited by bad people. Fortunately this vulnerability is one that requires more than remote access to a PC. However, you can be sure that malware writers will be working on implementing this.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!



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