Hackers Find a New Place to Hide RootkitsMay 10, 2008 – 7:07 AM
Security researchers have developed a new type of malicious rootkit software that hides itself in an obscure part of a computer’s microprocessor, hidden from current antivirus products.
Called a System Management Mode (SMM) rootkit, the software runs in a protected part of a computer’s memory that can be locked and rendered invisible to the operating system, but which can give attackers a picture of what’s happening in a computer’s memory.
The SMM rootkit comes with keylogging and communications software and could be used to steal sensitive information from a victim’s computer. It was built by Shawn Embleton and Sherri Sparks, who run an Oviedo, Florida, security company called Clear Hat Consulting.
The proof-of-concept software will be demonstrated publicly for the first time at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this August.
The rootkits used by cyber crooks today are sneaky programs designed to cover up their tracks while they run in order to avoid detection. Rootkits hit the mainstream in late 2005 when Sony BMG Music used rootkit techniques to hide its copy protection software. The music company was ultimately forced to recall millions of CDs amid the ensuing scandal.
In recent years, however, researchers have been looking at ways to run rootkits outside of the operating system, where they are much harder to detect. For example, two years ago researcher Joanna Rutkowska introduced a rootkit called Blue Pill, which used AMD’s chip-level virtualization technology to hide itself. She said the technology could eventually be used to create “100 percent undetectable malware.”