Browse Definitions :
Definition

BIOS attack

What is a BIOS attack?

A BIOS attack is an exploit that infects the BIOS with malicious code and is persistent through reboots and attempts to reflash the firmware.

The BIOS is the firmware that runs while a computer boots up. Originally, it was hard-coded and read-only (which was why it was called firmware). Manufacturers now use an erasable format, such as flash memory, to make BIOS updates easier. As an unintended result, however, the change also means that the BIOS is vulnerable to online attack.

A BIOS attack does not require any vulnerability on the target system. Once an attacker gains administrative-level privileges through some other mechanism, he can flash the BIOS over the Internet with malware-laden firmware. A BIOS attack could infect a decompression routine used in the majority of motherboards.

It was once thought that BIOS malware would have to be written specifically for each of the many different BIOS implementations. However, at the 2009 CanSecWest security conference, researchers Alfredo Ortega and Anibal Sacco demonstrated a generic BIOS attack that would enable full control of the underlying firmware, regardless of the operating system. That ability means that such an attack could be widespread and portable among platforms.

There are two methods of preventing BIOS infection. The first method involves physically setting the BIOS to make it non-writeable. The second method relies on a hardware cryptographic key burned into the BIOS chip at manufacture that can be used to verify that the code has not been modified.

Learn More About IT:
> Sherri Davidoff writes about what happens 'When BIOS updates turn into attacks.'
> Dennis Fisher reported 'Researchers unveil persistent BIOS attack methods.'

This was last updated in July 2009

Join the conversation

1 comment

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

hi
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • compliance audit

    A compliance audit is a comprehensive review of an organization's adherence to regulatory guidelines.

  • regulatory compliance

    Regulatory compliance is an organization's adherence to laws, regulations, guidelines and specifications relevant to its business...

  • Whistleblower Protection Act

    The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a law that protects federal government employees in the United States from ...

SearchSecurity

  • RSA algorithm (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman)

    The RSA algorithm is the basis of a cryptosystem -- a suite of cryptographic algorithms that are used for specific security ...

  • remote access

    Remote access is the ability to access a computer or a network remotely through a network connection.

  • IP Spoofing

    IP spoofing is the crafting of Internet Protocol (IP) packets with a source IP address that has been modified to impersonate ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • network disaster recovery plan

    A network disaster recovery plan is a set of procedures designed to prepare an organization to respond to an interruption of ...

  • virtual disaster recovery

    Virtual disaster recovery is a type of DR that typically involves replication and allows a user to fail over to virtualized ...

  • tabletop exercise (TTX)

    A tabletop exercise (TTX) is a disaster preparedness activity that takes participants through the process of dealing with a ...

SearchStorage

  • enterprise storage

    Enterprise storage is a centralized repository for business information that provides common data management, protection and data...

  • disk array

    A disk array, also called a storage array, is a data storage system used for block-based storage, file-based storage or object ...

  • optical storage

    Optical storage is any storage type in which data is written and read with a laser. Typically, data is written to optical media, ...

Close