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

  • regulatory compliance

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

  • privacy compliance

    Privacy compliance is a company's accordance with established personal information protection guidelines, specifications or ...

  • data governance policy

    A data governance policy is a documented set of guidelines for ensuring that an organization's data and information assets are ...

SearchSecurity

SearchHealthIT

  • telemedicine (telehealth)

    Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services, such as health assessments or consultations, over the ...

  • Project Nightingale

    Project Nightingale is a controversial partnership between Google and Ascension, the second largest health system in the United ...

  • medical practice management (MPM) software

    Medical practice management (MPM) software is a collection of computerized services used by healthcare professionals and ...

SearchDisasterRecovery

SearchStorage

  • megabytes per second (MBps)

    Megabytes per second (MBps) is a unit of measurement for data transfer speed to and from a computer storage device.

  • zettabyte

    A zettabyte is a unit of measurement used by technology professionals and the general public to describe a computer or other ...

  • hybrid flash array

    A hybrid flash array is a solid-state storage system that contains a mix of flash memory drives and hard disk drives.

Close