After CIA leak, Intel Security releases detection tool for EFI rootkits

A new module for Intel Security's CHIPSEC framework can find rogue binaries inside the low-level firmware of computers

IDG

IDG

Intel Security has released a tool that allows users to check if their computer's low-level system firmware has been modified and contains unauthorized code.

The release comes after CIA documents leaked Tuesday revealed that the agency has developed EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) rootkits for Apple's Macbooks. A rootkit is a malicious program that runs with high privileges -- typically in the kernel -- and hides the existence of other malicious components and activities.

The documents from CIA's Embedded Development Branch (EDB) mention an OS X "implant" called DerStarke that includes a kernel code injection module dubbed Bokor and an EFI persistence module called DarkMatter.

EFI, also known as UEFI (Unified EFI), is the low-level firmware that runs before the operating system and initializes the various hardware components during the system boot process. It's the replacement for the older and much more basic BIOS in modern computers and resembles a mini operating system. It can have hundreds of "programs" for different functions implemented as executable binaries.

A malicious program hidden inside the EFI can inject malicious code into the OS kernel and can restore any malware that has been removed from the computer. This allows rootkits to survive major system updates and even reinstallations.

In addition to DarkMatter, there is a second project in the CIA EDB documents called QuarkMatter that is also described as a "Mac OS X EFI implant which uses an EFI driver stored on the EFI system partition to provide persistence to an arbitrary kernel implant."

The Advanced Threat Research team at Intel Security has created a new module for its existing CHIPSEC open-source framework to detect rogue EFI binaries. CHIPSEC consists of a set of command-line tools that use low-level interfaces to analyze a system's hardware, firmware, and platform components. It can be run from Windows, Linux, macOS, and even from an EFI shell.

The new CHIPSEC module allows the user to take a clean EFI image from the computer manufacturer, extract its contents and build a whitelist of the binary files inside. It can then compare that list against the system's current EFI or against an EFI image previously extracted from a system.

If the tool finds any binary files that don't match the clean EFI list, it's possible that the firmware has been infected. The rogue files are listed and can then be further analyzed.

"We recommend generating an EFI 'whitelist' after purchasing a system or when sure it hasn’t been infected," the Intel Security researchers said in a blog post. "Then check EFI firmware on your system periodically or whenever concerned, such as when a laptop was left unattended."

EFI firmware updates for various Mac and Macbook versions are available on Apple's support website.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intelwikileakscia

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

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?