A new bootkit known as ESPecter aims to infiltrate UEFI system partitions for covert cyberespionage purposes. As its name implies, this virus remains undetected by common forensics software solutions.
Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for ways to gain long-term access and control of a victim’s system, and one effective approach is embedding malware in low-level software such as device firmware or initial sectors of hard drives.
What Is a Bootkit?
Bootkit malware is a type of virus designed to hijack the boot process and infiltrate deep within your system, bypassing security mechanisms and antimalware apps without being detected by them. By taking control of this crucial stage in booting up a PC, cybercriminals can hide their malicious programs hidden away safely away from detection by security mechanisms and antimalware apps.
Booting up a computer activates its hardware, activates its operating system, and initiates various processes that enable users to begin using the device. Criminals can use bootkits to conceal malware or steal information, and turn computers into botnets.
Rootkit was coined in 1990 to describe maliciously modified administrative tools for Unix-like OSs that granted intruders “root” access, enabling them to install or replace standard administrative tools while concealing their actions from system administrators. Early rootkits allowed an attacker to take complete control over a machine by installing and replacing standard administrative tools while hiding their activities from them.
Bootkits are an advanced form of rootkit that can be used to modify system code and drivers before starting up the operating system. By attaching their own bootloader to either Master Boot Record or Volume Boot Record, bootkits can infect computers with malware undetected by antivirus or security software programs.
Bootkits traditionally spread via bootable floppy disks or other forms of media. Nowadays, however, they can often appear as benign software programs and be distributed alongside free downloads, phishing emails or malicious websites that target specific individuals to exploit vulnerabilities in their browsers.
Impact of Bootkits
Bootkits are a form of malware that infiltrate the master boot record and take complete control of a system, giving an attacker access to all areas off limits to them as well as altering operating system code and drivers, all without raising alarm from anti-virus software. As such, protecting your systems against bootkits is critical so threat actors do not gain secret remote access and use your company as part of their botnet or attempt to gain encryption keys, credit card data or other forms of sensitive data theft.
To install a bootkit on a computer, attackers use two components. A dropper and loader are deployed onto an already compromised device in order to download and install a rootkit, while once in place it bypasses UEFI Secure Boot and persists on its host machine – in addition to providing C2 communication and loading additional user mode and driver components.
An attacker typically begins an attack by sending their victim an attacker-crafted installer program, known as a bootkit, with which it can install on their system. Once downloaded and executed on a system, this program extracts legitimate binaries from it and modifies them so they contain malicious codes; once rebooted again, the self-signed bootkit silently executes, bypassing UEFI Secure Boot protection in order to persist on it for long.
Preventing Bootkit Infections
Norton Power Eraser is one such anti-malware tool that can assist in eradicating bootkit infections from your system, with tools to repair system files corrupted by malware and infections. After cleaning, it’s essential to remain vigilant for signs of reinfection; additionally, keep your PC up-to-date and run regular scans with updated security software to stay protected.
Bootloader rootkits are one of the most dangerous forms of bootkits, replacing a victim’s computer’s bootloader with an altered version that enables attackers to take control of devices from the very initial startup stages – making them hard to detect or remove and providing attackers with control to spy on victims or launch other attacks; for example, Mosaic Regressor surveillance bootkit uses such techniques against diplomats and members of non-governmental organizations in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Kern-mode rootkits, for instance, can mask processes, files, network ports, system drivers and more from antivirus and other security software programs. ZeroAccess infected over 2 million computers globally and is still actively being used today. Finally, firmware rootkits use software embedded within hardware such as motherboard ROM to infiltrate devices such as routers, basic input/output systems and network cards – such as routers.
How to Get Rid of Bootkits?
To effectively remove a bootkit, the best approach is to use professional malware removal tools. These programs can help delete the master boot record and reformat partitions on an infected PC, though if the infection has penetrated further than expected a new motherboard may be needed for repair.
Step one in protecting against rootkits is understanding their functioning. Rootkits are forms of malware which allow hackers access to your device and give them the opportunity to steal data, alter files and install software as well as potentially create botnets and launch denial-of-service attacks against it.
Rootkits often target bootloader mechanisms and replace them with modified versions – an extremely dangerous form used in cyber attacks against critical infrastructure like Iran’s nuclear program. There are also memory rootkits which infiltrate random-access memory (RAM) of computers to perform malicious activities in the background.
To detect a rootkit, you should employ security software capable of identifying malicious activity. Behavioral analysis can detect suspicious changes to file system permissions as well as detect bootkits and other forms of malware hidden from traditional scanning tools. When downloading software programs or opening emails from unknown sources, be wary. It is always better to err on the side of caution by only downloading software from reliable sites.
Protect Yourself against Malware Attacks
Malware attacks are becoming more frequent and can have serious repercussions for both individuals and organizations, from corrupting files to stealing data or even taking control of devices. The best way to guard against malware attacks is through preventative measures; such as user education for everyone within your organization, restricting privileges and keeping software up-to-date. Scan all software downloaded from the internet prior to execution to detect Trojan horses, spyware, adware or any other form of malicious software including Trojan horses. Also be wary when accepting unsolicited links or accepting email attachments with macros enabled from unknown sources or people promising freeware downloads!
Cybercriminals are constantly looking for ways to gain entry to computers undetected by security tools, and a bootkit enables them to do exactly that by hiding malware within low-level software such as device firmware or hard disk sectors.
Bootkits can be difficult to detect as they evade both operating systems and security tools, preventing detection. Bootkits can also be used to install more malware or conceal cryptographic keys and passwords for accessing data on computers or networks. In some instances, bootkits are even used by threat actors as zombie computers to steal encryption keys or conduct cyberattacks against targets – the best way to defend against bootkit attacks is with an advanced next-generation antivirus tool and taking proactive measures against potential cyberthreats.
Bootkit malware provides attackers with an effective means of bypassing operating systems and disguising themselves on computer systems. It does this by moving its location to hardware stores and activating itself before or even during system kernel loading, making it extremely challenging for malware defenders to detect or remove it.
BlackLotus uses a kernel driver to obfuscate its components from resource enumeration utilities used by malware detectors; however, this method isn’t foolproof and can easily be bypassed by attackers.
Security researchers continue to explore the depths of device firmware and hardware security, leading malware authors to adjust their attacks accordingly. With recent discoveries such as FinSpy bookit capabilities for modern UEFI boot loaders showing how attackers may become increasingly active over time.