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Tuesday, 12 August 2014 13:11

Computrace is a spy in your BIOS

Written by Nick Farrell



Does what it likes

Absolute Computrace, which is embedded in the BIOS, of a large chunk of PCs could be a security nightmare according to research from Kaspersky labs. The software allows companies to track and secure all of their PCs from a single cloud-based console, but Kaspersky claims that it runs without user-consent, persistently activates itself at system boot, and can be exploited to perform various attacks and to take complete control of an affected machine.

Vitaly Kamluk and Sergey Belov along with Annibal Sacco of Core Security demonstrated the flaw at the Black Hat 2014 conference. Kamluk said that the software is extremely flexible. It's a tiny piece of code which is a part of the BIOS. As far as it is a piece of the BIOS, it is not very easy to update the software as often. So they made it was extensible.

“It can do nearly anything. It can run every type of code. You can do to the system whatever you want. Considering that the software is running on these local system privileges, you have full access to the machine. You can wipe the machine, you can monitor it, you can look through the webcam, you can actually copy any files, you can start new processes. You can do absolutely anything".

What is alarming is that after Kaspersky warned about the problem Computrace is still exploitable and once it has been activated it's very persistent and difficult to turn off. It also doesn’t enforce encryption when it communicates and doesn't verify the identity of servers from which it receives commands, so could expose users to attacks.

It is also not clear what is activating Computrace? Kaspersky believe it may be down to manufacturers' testing of new machines to check for Computrace compatibility.

Nick Farrell

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