03. August 2009 · Comments Off on LoJack-For-Laptops creates rootkit-like BIOS vulnerability · Categories: Breaches, Malware, Risk Management, Security Management, Security Policy · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Alfredo Ortega and Anibal Sacco, researchers for penetration testing software company Core Security Technologies, demonstrated at Black Hat how Absolute Software's Computrace LoJack For Laptops contains a BIOS rootkit-like vulnerability.The reason this is significant is that about 60% of laptops ship with this installed including those from Dell, HP, Toshiba, and Lenovo. These companies are listed as OEM partners on Absolute's web site.

Here is a good article which describes how LoJack for Laptops works and the vulnerability. Lest you think this is only a Windows issue, the software is also used on Macs, although Apple is not listed as an OEM partner.

In order for this vulnerability to be exploited the bad guy would need physical access to your laptop or remote access with Admin/root privileges. If you are running in User-mode, which should be an enforced policy, the risk drops significantly. The high risk exploits are:

  • A keylogger is installed and used to capture your passwords which, for example, you use to access your bank accounts
  • An agent is installed that enables the bad guy to retrieve whatever data is stored on the system, such as intellectual property, financial records, etc.

There are always trade-offs in technology. By definition, adding features increases the attack surface. The good news is that LoJack for Laptops reduces the risk of disclosing information on lost or stolen laptops. The bad news is that by using it, you are increasing the risk of a rootkit-like attack on the laptop.

Last week at Black Hat, Peter Kleissner, a young software developer from Vienna,
Austria, showed an interesting variation on a rootkit he
calls Stoned which he said can bypass disk encryption. However, I don’t think any disk encryption product, by itself, claims that it cannot be
bypassed by a keylogger.

Here is the scenario: If you lose your PC and the disk
is encrypted with a quality disk encryption product, you can have a high degree
of confidence that no encrypted information will be disclosed.

However, if the
PC is returned to you, you cannot be sure that a root kit and a keylogger have
not been installed on the machine. The risk of disclosing information occurs
when you boot up the machine and authenticate. At that point the keylogger can
capture your credentials and eventually access all the data on the disk (as you

Also, the risk of your PC being “rootkitted” (if there is such a word) while browsing increases if you are working on your PC as an Administrator. Clearly
organizations have policies against this and are able to enforce it.