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Webroot Discovers BIOS Rootkit

By - Source: Webroot | B 50 comments

Security software company Webroot says a BIOS rootkit has been found in the wild.

Called Mebromi, the malware is reminiscent of the IceLord proof of concept BIOS rootkit in 2007, was a late 1990s virus that was able to erase the motherboard software. This new rootkit is a different caliber as it is appears to be one of the most persistent malware programs we have heard so far.

According to Webroot, Mebromi targets Award BIOS and attaches itself to it so it can infect a client computer over and over again. The malware then infects the master boot record to be able to infect winlogon.exe or winnt.exe to be able to use Windows to download additional malware. There is no easy way to get rid of Mebromi at this time as traditional anti-virus software won't reach down to the BIOS level.

Webroot said that the rootkit is targeting Chinese users and seems to be modeled closely after IceLord, which was demonstrated in 2007. The company stated that "storing the malicious code inside the BIOS ROM could actually become more than just a problem for security software, given the fact that even if an antivirus detects and cleans the MBR infection, it will be restored at the next system startup when the malicious BIOS payload would overwrite the MBR code again."

Webroot's Marco Giuliani noted that "developing an antivirus utility able to clean the BIOS code is a challenge, because it needs to be totally error-proof, to avoid rendering the system unbootable at all." He added: "The job of handling with such specific system codes should be left to the developers of the specific motherboard model, who release BIOS updates along with specific tool to update the BIOS code."

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Top Comments
  • 30 Hide
    HMRkingpin , September 15, 2011 7:12 PM
    Remember..... The best line of defense is you. Be careful of what you open and click on.
  • 25 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , September 15, 2011 7:13 PM
    HMRkingpinRemember..... The best line of defense is you. Be careful of what you open and click on.


    +over 9000. No antivirus will help you if you're stupid and careless.
  • 19 Hide
    ikyung , September 15, 2011 7:26 PM
    Webroot discovers BIOS rootkit in the wild!
    Webroot uses tackle!
    Webroot uses growl!
    Webroot uses tackle!

    BIOS rootkit faints..
Other Comments
    Display all 50 comments.
  • 30 Hide
    HMRkingpin , September 15, 2011 7:12 PM
    Remember..... The best line of defense is you. Be careful of what you open and click on.
  • 25 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , September 15, 2011 7:13 PM
    HMRkingpinRemember..... The best line of defense is you. Be careful of what you open and click on.


    +over 9000. No antivirus will help you if you're stupid and careless.
  • -7 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , September 15, 2011 7:16 PM
    Quote:
    Webroot said that the rootkit is targeting Chinese users and seems to be modeled closely after IceLord, which was demonstrated in 2007. The company stated that "storing the malicious code inside the BIOS ROM could actually become more than just a problem for security software, given the fact that even if an antivirus detects and cleans the MBR infection, it will be restored at the next system startup when the malicious BIOS payload would overwrite the MBR code again."


    Blah blah blah blah blah... flash the BIOS, format the hard drive, problem solved... /facepalm
  • 11 Hide
    offerings12 , September 15, 2011 7:17 PM
    Flash the bios.... poof gone
  • -2 Hide
    dalethepcman , September 15, 2011 7:23 PM
    this would suck if it started spreading, imaging all the bricked machines that need their BIOS chips replaced. Thank god for UEFI
  • 19 Hide
    ikyung , September 15, 2011 7:26 PM
    Webroot discovers BIOS rootkit in the wild!
    Webroot uses tackle!
    Webroot uses growl!
    Webroot uses tackle!

    BIOS rootkit faints..
  • 2 Hide
    11796pcs , September 15, 2011 8:02 PM
    offerings12Flash the bios.... poof gone

    I don't really think the issue should be considered that simple. Can you imagine how long it would take you to find out that you had an infected BIOS? And if there's one thing I don't like to mess with on my PC it's the BIOS. BIOSes are perfect example of: if it ain't broke don't fix it". If I had an infected BIOS it would prbably be one of the last places I would look. Also: even though this virus is targeted towards the Chinese any person who has a virus on his/her computer affects us all.
  • 7 Hide
    jhansonxi , September 15, 2011 8:10 PM
    amk-aka-phantomBlah blah blah blah blah... flash the BIOS, format the hard drive, problem solved... /facepalm
    And you're going to do that with a BIOS flash utility, running on an infected OS, connecting to an infected BIOS, and you think the malware writers didn't plan for that? The only program that has more control over your system than the BIOS is the CPU microcode (which the BIOS can also patch to fix CPU bugs). I think it's also possible to infect the BIOS boot recovery block so unless you have a system with a dual BIOS (like some server MBs), then you're not going to get rid of it. It's also possible to infect the system through the CMOS.

    In the old days the solution was to pull the BIOS ROM, reprogram it on a PROM burner with a clean BIOS copy, clear the CMOS, then reinstall the ROM. Not so easy to do on today's systems.
  • 3 Hide
    warezme , September 15, 2011 8:16 PM
    jhansonxiAnd you're going to do that with a BIOS flash utility, running on an infected OS, connecting to an infected BIOS, and you think the malware writers didn't plan for that? The only program that has more control over your system than the BIOS is the CPU microcode (which the BIOS can also patch to fix CPU bugs). I think it's also possible to infect the BIOS boot recovery block so unless you have a system with a dual BIOS (like some server MBs), then you're not going to get rid of it. It's also possible to infect the system through the CMOS.In the old days the solution was to pull the BIOS ROM, reprogram it on a PROM burner with a clean BIOS copy, clear the CMOS, then reinstall the ROM. Not so easy to do on today's systems.

    Why not? You should be flashing the bios from either a bootable CD, thumbdrive or floppy. Windows shouldn't be in the way just for such reasons and more. Bios FLash - 5 minutes, tops.
  • -7 Hide
    beardguy , September 15, 2011 8:19 PM
    Haven't had any antivirus software in 4+ years and never had a single problem.

    If you stay away from sketchy sites and know what you are doing, you don't need antivirus.
  • 2 Hide
    gti88 , September 15, 2011 8:25 PM
    Anyway, I'll get a dual-BIOS Gigabyte MB next year.
  • 9 Hide
    Netherscourge , September 15, 2011 8:25 PM
    Can't the BIOS be infected to the point it prevents a CD/DVD from being booted upon launch though?

  • 3 Hide
    Netherscourge , September 15, 2011 8:26 PM
    ...thereby making a bootable CD with a BIOS flash utility on it worthless?
    ...same with bootable USB Drives and any other device that the BIOS has boot-control over?
  • 2 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , September 15, 2011 8:33 PM
    Quote:
    And you're going to do that with a BIOS flash utility, running on an infected OS, connecting to an infected BIOS, and you think the malware writers didn't plan for that? The only program that has more control over your system than the BIOS is the CPU microcode (which the BIOS can also patch to fix CPU bugs). I think it's also possible to infect the BIOS boot recovery block so unless you have a system with a dual BIOS (like some server MBs), then you're not going to get rid of it. It's also possible to infect the system through the CMOS.

    In the old days the solution was to pull the BIOS ROM, reprogram it on a PROM burner with a clean BIOS copy, clear the CMOS, then reinstall the ROM. Not so easy to do on today's systems.


    I knew someone is gonna say that! :p 

    1) The quote I listed in my original post said

    Quote:
    even if an antivirus detects and cleans the MBR infection, it will be restored at the next system startup


    I was referring to that (HDD format after cleaned BIOS = rootkit pwnd)

    2) You can also flash the BIOS on boot

    3) Try GETTING that rootkit... it's not like it's running around the internets and storms every computer it sees... I actually WANT to find and isolate it, then test (use old Celeron 500 MHz rig with XP for that) - add it to my virus zoo after that, if it's functional :) 

    4) It's possible to infect the system through the CMOS, maybe. It's also possible to break your PC with a hammer, short the motherboard or throw it out of the window, but the article doesn't say that this particular rootkit does any of these things apart from infecting winlogon.exe, wininit.exe and BIOS. And CMOS can always be reset.

    This speculation can go on, but you catch my drift... nothing is as scary and dangerous as they describe it. Just know what you're doing, don't panic, and you'll always triumph over any BS malware.
  • 1 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , September 15, 2011 8:41 PM
    Quote:
    ...thereby making a bootable CD with a BIOS flash utility on it worthless?
    ...same with bootable USB Drives and any other device that the BIOS has boot-control over?


    It probably can, but I think the mobo makers aren't that stupid and planned for it, too. However, in this case I will flash from OS, then take out the HDD and flash on boot again. If, however, the rootkit screwed up the system so much that you cannot boot ANYTHING, I applaud the malware writer and wonder why didn't he just fry my hardware instead of leaving me an easy route out: replace BIOS chip.
  • -2 Hide
    LORD_ORION , September 15, 2011 8:49 PM
    How does it infect the bios in the 1st place? Looks like there is a big gaping security hole if the BIOS can be touched during normal PC operation.
  • -1 Hide
    nforce4max , September 15, 2011 9:10 PM
    This is why my room is filled with mostly computers and a few old antiques. I personally know to be more careful than the average users and that no anti virus program out there is idiot proof. I have found that such programs have their shortcomings that can and often really make things all to easy for an infection to take place.

    Any college level firewall and network security class is worth the money.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2011 9:12 PM
    @LORD_ORION

    modern mobos allow flashing through windows using specially crafted software, im guessing it doesn't take someone with exceptional talent to reverse engineer one of these. The role of the bios is to enable the system to boot into the OS, once the OS is up and running the BIOS literally hands over control of the system to the OS
  • -1 Hide
    Tyler_767 , September 15, 2011 9:24 PM
    I guess its a good thing Intel is putting antivirus into the cpu's. Maybe Intel made the virus to take out AMD computers.
  • -1 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 15, 2011 9:26 PM
    Bios is becoming outdated........butmaybe UEFI will need some virus protection.........
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