Kaspersky is reporting on a new UEFI rootkit that survives reinstalling the operating system and replacing the hard drive. From an article:
The firmware compromises the UEFI, the low-level and highly opaque chain of firmware required to boot up nearly every modern computer. As the software that bridges a PC’s device firmware with its operating system, the UEFI—short for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface—is an OS in its own right. It’s located in an SPI-connected flash storage chip soldered onto the computer motherboard, making it difficult to inspect or patch the code. Because it’s the first thing to run when a computer is turned on, it influences the OS, security apps, and all other software that follows.
Both links have lots of technical details; the second contains a list of previously discovered UEFI rootkits. Also relevant are the NSA’s capabilities—now a decade old—in this area.
Posted on July 28, 2022 at 6:16 AM •
The Russian hacking group Turla released an Android app that seems to aid Ukrainian hackers in their attacks against Russian networks. It’s actually malware, and provides information back to the Russians:
The hackers pretended to be a “community of free people around the world who are fighting russia’s aggression”—much like the IT Army. But the app they developed was actually malware. The hackers called it CyberAzov, in reference to the Azov Regiment or Battalion, a far-right group that has become part of Ukraine’s national guard. To add more credibility to the ruse they hosted the app on a domain “spoofing” the Azov Regiment: cyberazov[.]com.
The app actually didn’t DDoS anything, but was designed to map out and figure out who would want to use such an app to attack Russian websites, according to Huntely.
Google said the fake app wasn’t hosted on the Play Store, and that the number of installs “was miniscule.”
Details from Google’s Threat Analysis Group here.
Posted on July 20, 2022 at 10:32 AM •
Wired is reporting on a new remote-access Trojan that is able to infect at least eighty different targets:
So far, researchers from Lumen Technologies’ Black Lotus Labs say they’ve identified at least 80 targets infected by the stealthy malware, including routers made by Cisco, Netgear, Asus, and DrayTek. Dubbed ZuoRAT, the remote access Trojan is part of a broader hacking campaign that has existed since at least the fourth quarter of 2020 and continues to operate.
The discovery of custom-built malware written for the MIPS architecture and compiled for small-office and home-office routers is significant, particularly given its range of capabilities. Its ability to enumerate all devices connected to an infected router and collect the DNS lookups and network traffic they send and receive and remain undetected is the hallmark of a highly sophisticated threat actor.
More details in the article.
Posted on June 30, 2022 at 3:04 PM •
What makes Symbiote different from other Linux malware that we usually come across, is that it needs to infect other running processes to inflict damage on infected machines. Instead of being a standalone executable file that is run to infect a machine, it is a shared object (SO) library that is loaded into all running processes using LD_PRELOAD (T1574.006), and parasitically infects the machine. Once it has infected all the running processes, it provides the threat actor with rootkit functionality, the ability to harvest credentials, and remote access capability.
Researchers have unearthed a discovery that doesn’t occur all that often in the realm of malware: a mature, never-before-seen Linux backdoor that uses novel evasion techniques to conceal its presence on infected servers, in some cases even with a forensic investigation.
No public attribution yet.
So far, there’s no evidence of infections in the wild, only malware samples found online. It’s unlikely this malware is widely active at the moment, but with stealth this robust, how can we be sure?
Posted on June 22, 2022 at 6:07 AM •
This is a new vulnerability against Apple’s M1 chip. Researchers say that it is unpatchable.
Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, however, have created a novel hardware attack, which combines memory corruption and speculative execution attacks to sidestep the security feature. The attack shows that pointer authentication can be defeated without leaving a trace, and as it utilizes a hardware mechanism, no software patch can fix it.
The attack, appropriately called “Pacman,” works by “guessing” a pointer authentication code (PAC), a cryptographic signature that confirms that an app hasn’t been maliciously altered. This is done using speculative execution—a technique used by modern computer processors to speed up performance by speculatively guessing various lines of computation—to leak PAC verification results, while a hardware side-channel reveals whether or not the guess was correct.
What’s more, since there are only so many possible values for the PAC, the researchers found that it’s possible to try them all to find the right one.
It’s not obvious how to exploit this vulnerability in the wild, so I’m unsure how important this is. Also, I don’t know if it also applies to Apple’s new M2 chip.
Research paper. Another news article.
Posted on June 15, 2022 at 6:05 AM •
Researchers have demonstrated controlling touchscreens at a distance, at least in a laboratory setting:
The core idea is to take advantage of the electromagnetic signals to execute basic touch events such as taps and swipes into targeted locations of the touchscreen with the goal of taking over remote control and manipulating the underlying device.
The attack, which works from a distance of up to 40mm, hinges on the fact that capacitive touchscreens are sensitive to EMI, leveraging it to inject electromagnetic signals into transparent electrodes that are built into the touchscreen so as to register them as touch events.
The experimental setup involves an electrostatic gun to generate a strong pulse signal that’s then sent to an antenna to transmit an electromagnetic field to the phone’s touchscreen, thereby causing the electrodes which act as antennas themselves to pick up the EMI.
Paper: “GhostTouch: Targeted Attacks on Touchscreens without Physical Touch“:
Abstract: Capacitive touchscreens have become the primary human-machine interface for personal devices such as smartphones and tablets. In this paper, we present GhostTouch, the first active contactless attack against capacitive touchscreens. GhostTouch uses electromagnetic interference (EMI) to inject fake touch points into a touchscreen without the need to physically touch it. By tuning the parameters of the electromagnetic signal and adjusting the antenna, we can inject two types of basic touch events, taps and swipes, into targeted locations of the touchscreen and control them to manipulate the underlying device. We successfully launch the GhostTouch attacks on nine smartphone models. We can inject targeted taps continuously with a standard deviation of as low as 14.6 x 19.2 pixels from the target area, a delay of less than 0.5s and a distance of up to 40mm. We show the real-world impact of the GhostTouch attacks in a few proof-of-concept scenarios, including answering an eavesdropping phone call, pressing the button, swiping up to unlock, and entering a password. Finally, we discuss potential hardware and software countermeasures to mitigate the attack.
Posted on June 2, 2022 at 3:59 PM •
Brian Krebs has an interesting story of a smart ID card reader with a malware-infested Windows driver, and US government employees who inadvertently buy and use them.
But by all accounts, the potential attack surface here is enormous, as many federal employees clearly will purchase these readers from a myriad of online vendors when the need arises. Saicoo’s product listings, for example, are replete with comments from customers who self-state that they work at a federal agency (and several who reported problems installing drivers).
Posted on May 26, 2022 at 6:55 AM •
Researchers have demonstrated iPhone malware that works even when the phone is fully shut down.
t turns out that the iPhone’s Bluetooth chip—which is key to making features like Find My work—has no mechanism for digitally signing or even encrypting the firmware it runs. Academics at Germany’s Technical University of Darmstadt figured out how to exploit this lack of hardening to run malicious firmware that allows the attacker to track the phone’s location or run new features when the device is turned off.
The research is the first—or at least among the first—to study the risk posed by chips running in low-power mode. Not to be confused with iOS’s low-power mode for conserving battery life, the low-power mode (LPM) in this research allows chips responsible for near-field communication, ultra wideband, and Bluetooth to run in a special mode that can remain on for 24 hours after a device is turned off.
The research is fascinating, but the attack isn’t really feasible. It requires a jailbroken phone, which is hard to pull off in an adversarial setting.
Posted on May 18, 2022 at 6:06 AM •
Mandiant is reporting on a new botnet.
The group, which security firm Mandiant is calling UNC3524, has spent the past 18 months burrowing into victims’ networks with unusual stealth. In cases where the group is ejected, it wastes no time reinfecting the victim environment and picking up where things left off. There are many keys to its stealth, including:
- The use of a unique backdoor Mandiant calls Quietexit, which runs on load balancers, wireless access point controllers, and other types of IoT devices that don’t support antivirus or endpoint detection. This makes detection through traditional means difficult.
- Customized versions of the backdoor that use file names and creation dates that are similar to legitimate files used on a specific infected device.
- A live-off-the-land approach that favors common Windows programming interfaces and tools over custom code with the goal of leaving as light a footprint as possible.
- An unusual way a second-stage backdoor connects to attacker-controlled infrastructure by, in essence, acting as a TLS-encrypted server that proxies data through the SOCKS protocol.
Unpacking this threat group is difficult. From outward appearances, their focus on corporate transactions suggests a financial interest. But UNC3524’s high-caliber tradecraft, proficiency with sophisticated IoT botnets, and ability to remain undetected for so long suggests something more.
Throughout their operations, the threat actor demonstrated sophisticated operational security that we see only a small number of threat actors demonstrate. The threat actor evaded detection by operating from devices in the victim environment’s blind spots, including servers running uncommon versions of Linux and network appliances running opaque OSes. These devices and appliances were running versions of operating systems that were unsupported by agent-based security tools, and often had an expected level of network traffic that allowed the attackers to blend in. The threat actor’s use of the QUIETEXIT tunneler allowed them to largely live off the land, without the need to bring in additional tools, further reducing the opportunity for detection. This allowed UNC3524 to remain undetected in victim environments for, in some cases, upwards of 18 months.
Posted on May 4, 2022 at 6:15 AM •
Both Google and Mandiant are reporting a significant increase in the number of zero-day vulnerabilities reported in 2021.
2021 included the detection and disclosure of 58 in-the-wild 0-days, the most ever recorded since Project Zero began tracking in mid-2014. That’s more than double the previous maximum of 28 detected in 2015 and especially stark when you consider that there were only 25 detected in 2020. We’ve tracked publicly known in-the-wild 0-day exploits in this spreadsheet since mid-2014.
While we often talk about the number of 0-day exploits used in-the-wild, what we’re actually discussing is the number of 0-day exploits detected and disclosed as in-the-wild. And that leads into our first conclusion: we believe the large uptick in in-the-wild 0-days in 2021 is due to increased detection and disclosure of these 0-days, rather than simply increased usage of 0-day exploits.
In 2021, Mandiant Threat Intelligence identified 80 zero-days exploited in the wild, which is more than double the previous record volume in 2019. State-sponsored groups continue to be the primary actors exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities, led by Chinese groups. The proportion of financially motivated actors—particularly ransomware groups—deploying zero-day exploits also grew significantly, and nearly 1 in 3 identified actors exploiting zero-days in 2021 was financially motivated. Threat actors exploited zero-days in Microsoft, Apple, and Google products most frequently, likely reflecting the popularity of these vendors. The vast increase in zero-day exploitation in 2021, as well as the diversification of actors using them, expands the risk portfolio for organizations in nearly every industry sector and geography, particularly those that rely on these popular systems.
Posted on April 27, 2022 at 1:40 PM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.