Entries Tagged "BIOS"

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BIOS Hacking

We’ve learned a lot about the NSA’s abilities to hack a computer’s BIOS so that the hack survives reinstalling the OS. Now we have a research presentation about it.

From Wired:

The BIOS boots a computer and helps load the operating system. By infecting this core software, which operates below antivirus and other security products and therefore is not usually scanned by them, spies can plant malware that remains live and undetected even if the computer’s operating system were wiped and re-installed.

[…]

Although most BIOS have protections to prevent unauthorized modifications, the researchers were able to bypass these to reflash the BIOS and implant their malicious code.

[…]

Because many BIOS share some of the same code, they were able to uncover vulnerabilities in 80 percent of the PCs they examined, including ones from Dell, Lenovo and HP. The vulnerabilities, which they’re calling incursion vulnerabilities, were so easy to find that they wrote a script to automate the process and eventually stopped counting the vulns it uncovered because there were too many.

From ThreatPost:

Kallenberg said an attacker would need to already have remote access to a compromised computer in order to execute the implant and elevate privileges on the machine through the hardware. Their exploit turns down existing protections in place to prevent re-flashing of the firmware, enabling the implant to be inserted and executed.

The devious part of their exploit is that they’ve found a way to insert their agent into System Management Mode, which is used by firmware and runs separately from the operating system, managing various hardware controls. System Management Mode also has access to memory, which puts supposedly secure operating systems such as Tails in the line of fire of the implant.

From the Register:

“Because almost no one patches their BIOSes, almost every BIOS in the wild is affected by at least one vulnerability, and can be infected,” Kopvah says.

“The high amount of code reuse across UEFI BIOSes means that BIOS infection can be automatic and reliable.

“The point is less about how vendors don’t fix the problems, and more how the vendors’ fixes are going un-applied by users, corporations, and governments.”

From Forbes:

Though such “voodoo” hacking will likely remain a tool in the arsenal of intelligence and military agencies, it’s getting easier, Kallenberg and Kovah believe. This is in part due to the widespread adoption of UEFI, a framework that makes it easier for the vendors along the manufacturing chain to add modules and tinker with the code. That’s proven useful for the good guys, but also made it simpler for researchers to inspect the BIOS, find holes and create tools that find problems, allowing Kallenberg and Kovah to show off exploits across different PCs. In the demo to FORBES, an HP PC was used to carry out an attack on an ASUS machine. Kovah claimed that in tests across different PCs, he was able to find and exploit BIOS vulnerabilities across 80 per cent of machines he had access to and he could find flaws in the remaining 10 per cent.

“There are protections in place that are supposed to prevent you from flashing the BIOS and we’ve essentially automated a way to find vulnerabilities in this process to allow us to bypass them. It turns out bypassing the protections is pretty easy as well,” added Kallenberg.

The NSA has a term for vulnerabilities it think are exclusive to it: NOBUS, for “nobody but us.” Turns out that NOBUS is a flawed concept. As I keep saying: “Today’s top-secret programs become tomorrow’s PhD theses and the next day’s hacker tools.” By continuing to exploit these vulnerabilities rather than fixing them, the NSA is keeping us all vulnerable.

Two Slashdot threads. Hacker News thread. Reddit thread.

EDITED TO ADD (3/31): Slides from the CanSecWest presentation. The bottom line is that there are some pretty huge BIOS insecurities out there. We as a community and industry need to figure out how to regularly patch our BIOSes.

Posted on March 23, 2015 at 7:07 AMView Comments

STUCCOMONTANA: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today’s implant from the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

STUCCOMONTANA

(TS//SI//REL) STUCCOMONTANA provides persistence for DNT implants. The DNT implant will survive an upgrade or replacement of the operating system — including physically replacing the router’s compact flash card.

(TS//SI//REL) Currently, the intended DNT Implant to persist is VALIDATOR, which must be run as a user process on the target operating system. The vector of attack is the modification of the target’s BIOS. The modification will add the necessary software to the BIOS and modify its software to execute the SIERRAMONTANA implant at the end of its native System Management Mode (SMM) handler.

(TS//SI//REL) STUCCOMONTANA must support all modern versions of JUNOS, which is a version of FreeBSD customized by Juniper. Upon system boot, the JUNOS operating system is modified in memory to run the implant, and provide persistent kernel modifications to support implant execution.

(TS//SI//REL) STUCCOMONTANA is the cover term for the persistence technique to deploy a DNT implant to Juniper T-Series routers.

Unit Cost: $

Status: (U//FOUO) STUCCOMONTANA under development and is expected to be released by 30 November 2008.

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on January 17, 2014 at 2:06 PMView Comments

SIERRAMONTANA: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today’s implant from the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

SIERRAMONTANA

(TS//SI//REL) SIERRAMONTANA provides persistence for DNT implants. The DNT implant will survive an upgrade or replacement of the operating system — including physically replacing the router’s compact flash card.

(TS//SI//REL) Currently, the intended DNT Implant to persist is VALIDATOR, which must be run as a user process on the target operating system. The vector of attack is the modification of the target’s BIOS. The modification will add the necessary software to the BIOS and modify its software to execute the SIERRAMONTANA implant at the end of its native System Management Mode (SMM) handler.

(TS//SI//REL) SIERRAMONTANA must support all modern versions of JUNOS, which is a version of FreeBSD customized by Juniper. Upon system boot, the JUNOS operating system is modified in memory to run the implant, and provide persistent kernel modifications to support implant execution.

(TS//SI//REL) SIERRAMONTANA is the cover term for the persistence technique to deploy a DNT implant to Juniper M-Series routers.

Unit Cost: $

Status: (U//FOUO) SIERRAMONTANA under development and is expected to be released by 30 November 2008.

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

We have already seen the codename VALIDATOR. It’s the code name for a default, or basic, NSA exploit. It’s the exploit that FOXACID defaults to using.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on January 16, 2014 at 2:00 PMView Comments

SCHOOLMONTANA: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today’s implant from the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

SCHOOLMONTANA

(TS//SI//REL) SCHOOLMONTANA provides persistence for DNT implants. The DNT implant will survive an upgrade or replacement of the operating system — including physically replacing the router’s compact flash card.

(TS//SI//REL) Currently, the intended DNT Implant to persist is VALIDATOR, which must be run as a user process on the target operating system. The vector of attack is the modification of the target’s BIOS. The modification will add the necessary software to the BIOS and modify its software to execute the SCHOOLMONTANA implant at the end of its native System Management Mode (SMM) handler.

(TS//SI//REL) SCHOOLMONTANA must support all modern versions of JUNOS, which is a version of FreeBSD customized by Juniper. Upon system boot, the JUNOS operating system is modified in memory to run the implant, and provide persistent kernel modifications to support implant execution.

(TS//SI//REL) SCHOOLMONTANA is the cover term for the persistence technique to deploy a DNT implant to Juniper J-Series routers.

Status: (U//FOUO) SCHOOLMONTANA completed and released by ANT May 30, 2008. It is ready for deployment.

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:56 PMView Comments

SOUFFLETROUGH: NSA Exploit of the Day

One of the top secret NSA documents published by Der Spiegel is a 50-page catalog of “implants” from the NSA’s Tailored Access Group. Because the individual implants are so varied and we saw so many at once, most of them were never discussed in the security community. (Also, the pages were images, which makes them harder to index and search.) To rectify this, I am publishing an exploit a day on my blog.

Today’s implant:

SOUFFLETROUGH

(TS//SI//REL) SOUFFLETROUGH is a BIOS persistence implant for Juniper SSG 500 and SSG 300 firewalls. It persists DNT’s BANANAGLEE software implant. SOUFFLETROUGH also has an advanced persistent back-door capability.

(TS//SI//REL) SOUFFLETROUGH is a BIOS persistence implant for Juniper SSG 500 and SSG 300 series firewalls (320M, 350M, 520, 550, 520M, 550M). It persists DNT’s BANANAGLEE software implant and modifies the Juniper firewall’s operating system (ScreenOS) at boot time. If BANANAGLEE support is not available for the booting operating system, it can install a Persistent Backdoor (PBD) designed to work with BANANAGLEE’s communications structure, so that full access can be reacquired at a later time. It takes advantage of Intel’s System Management Mode for enhanced reliability and covertness. The PDB is also able to beacon home, and is fully configurable.

(TS//SI//REL) A typical SOUFFLETROUGH deployment on a target firewall with an exfiltration path to the Remote Operations Center (ROC) is shown above. SOUFFLETROUGH is remotely upgradeable and is also remotely installable provided BANANAGLEE is already on the firewall of interest.

Status: (C//REL) Released. Has been deployed. There are no availability restrictions preventing ongoing deployments.

Unit Cost: $0

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 2:45 PMView Comments

GOURMETTROUGH: NSA Exploit of the Day

Continuing our walk through the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

GOURMETTROUGH

(TS//SI//REL) GOURMETTROUGH is a user configurable implant for certain Juniper firewalls. It persists DNT’s BANANAGLEE implant across reboots and OS upgrades. For some platforms, it supports a minimal implant with beaconing for OS’s unsupported by BANANAGLEE.

(TS//SI//REL) For supported platforms, DNT may configure without ANT involvement. Except for limited platforms, they may also configure PBD for minimal implant in the case where an OS unsupported by BANANAGLEE is booted.

Status: GOURMETTROUGH is on the shelf and has been deployed on many target platforms. It supports nsg5t, ns50, ns25, isg1000(limited). Soon- ssg140, ssg5, ssg20

Unit Cost: $0

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on. It’s interesting how many of these implants are designed to allow other implants to survive attempts to remove them.

I think it’s important to discuss these implants individually. Because the whole catalog was released at once, it’s easy to focus on the catalog as a whole instead of the individual implants. Blogging them once per day brings back focus.

Posted on January 7, 2014 at 1:16 PMView Comments

FEEDTROUGH: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today’s item from the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

FEEDTROUGH

(TS//SI//REL) FEEDTROUGH is a persistence technique for two software implants, DNT’s BANANAGLEE and CES’s ZESTYLEAK used against Juniper Netscreen firewalls.

(TS//SI//REL) FEEDTROUGH can be used to persist two implants, ZESTYLEAK and/or BANANAGLEE across reboots and software upgrades on known and covered OS’s for the following Netscreen firewalls, ns5xt, ns25, ns50, ns200, ns500 and ISG 1000. There is no direct communication to or from FEEDTROUGH, but if present, the BANANAGLEE implant can receive and transmit covert channel comms, and for certain platforms, BANANAGLEE can also update FEEDTROUGH. FEEDTROUGH however can only persist OS’s included in its databases. Therefore this is best employed with known OS’s and if a new OS comes out, then the customer would need to add this OS to the FEEDTROUGH database for that particular firewall.

(TS//SI//REL) FEEDTROUGH operates every time the particular Juniper firewall boots. The first hook takes it to the code which checks to see if the OS is in the database, if it is, then a chain of events ensures the installation of either one or both implants. Otherwise the firewall boots normally. If the OS is one modified by DNT, it is not recognized, which gives the customer freedom to field new software.

Status: (S//SI//REL) FEEDTROUGH has on the shelf solutions for all of the listed platforms. It has been deployed on many target platforms.

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

The plan is to post one of these a day for the next couple of months.

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 1:28 PMView Comments

IRONCHEF: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today’s item from the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog is IRONCHEF:

IRONCHEF

(TS//SI//REL) IRONCHEF provides access persistence to target systems by exploiting the motherboard BIOS and utilizing System Management Mode (SMM) to communicate with a hardware implant that provides two-way RF communication.

(TS//SI//REL) This technique supports the HP Proliant 380DL G5 server, onto which a hardware implant has been installed that communicates over the I2C Interface (WAGONBED).

(TS//SI//REL) Through interdiction, IRONCHEF, a software CNE implant and the hardware implant are installed onto the system. If the software CNE implant is removed from the target machine, IRONCHEF is used to access the machine, determine the reason for removal of the software, and then reinstall the software from a listening post to the target system.

Status: Ready for Immediate Delivery

Unit Cost: $0

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

“CNE” stands for Computer Network Exfiltration. “Through interdiction” presumably means that the NSA has to physically intercept the computer while in transit to insert the hardware/software implant.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

The plan is to post one of these a day for the next couple of months.

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 12:20 PMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.