Lenovo ThinkPwn UEFI exploit also affects products from other vendors

The same critical vulnerability was found in the firmware of an HP laptop and several Gigabyte motherboards

A critical vulnerability that was recently found in the low-level firmware of Lenovo ThinkPad systems also reportedly exists in products from other vendors, including HP and Gigabyte Technology.

An exploit for the vulnerability was published last week and can be used to execute rogue code in the CPU's privileged SMM (System Management Mode).

This level of access can then be used to install a stealthy rootkit inside the computer's Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) -- the modern BIOS -- or to disable Windows security features such as Secure Boot, Virtual Secure Mode and Credential Guard that depend on the firmware being locked down.

The exploit, dubbed ThinkPwn, was released by a security researcher named Dmytro Oleksiuk last week without sharing it with Lenovo in advance. However, since then Oleksiuk has found the same vulnerable code inside older open source firmware for some Intel motherboards.

Lenovo said in a security advisory that the vulnerable code originated in a UEFI package provided to the company by one of its independent BIOS vendors (IBVs). These are companies that take the UEFI reference implementation and extend it, then sell the resulting package to PC manufacturers.

The fact that the vulnerability was in the UEFI implementation of an IBV made it likely that other vendors aside from Lenovo used the vulnerable firmware in their products.

This was confirmed over the weekend by a researcher named Alex James, who reported on Twitter that he found the vulnerable code inside the firmware of an HP Pavilion dv7-4087cl laptop. The firmware was supplied by Insyde Software, a Taiwanese IBV.

James later reported that the vulnerable code exists in the firmware of several motherboards made by Taiwanese computer hardware manufacturer Gigabyte Technology. The vulnerable models include Gigabyte's Z77X-UD5H, Z68-UD3H, Z87MX-D3H and Z97-D3H.

Intel, HP and Gigabyte didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Oleksiuk believes that the vulnerability originated in Intel's reference code for its 8-series chipsets and that it was fixed in mid-2014. However, since there were no public advisories about it, it's possible that IBVs and PC manufacturers missed the patch and continued to use an older version of the reference code as base for their UEFI.

Unfortunately, the affected products from Lenovo, HP and Gigabyte are probably just the tip of the iceberg and it will take a long time for all vendors to check their firmware and release patches. Even then, the adoption rate of BIOS/UEFI updates among users is typically low, so many systems will likely continue to remain vulnerable for years to come.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hacking

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?