Tag Archives: firmware

New Windows/Linux Firmware Attack

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/12/new-windows-linux-firmware-attack.html

Interesting attack based on malicious pre-OS logo images:

LogoFAIL is a constellation of two dozen newly discovered vulnerabilities that have lurked for years, if not decades, in Unified Extensible Firmware Interfaces responsible for booting modern devices that run Windows or Linux….

The vulnerabilities are the subject of a coordinated mass disclosure released Wednesday. The participating companies comprise nearly the entirety of the x64 and ARM CPU ecosystem, starting with UEFI suppliers AMI, Insyde, and Phoenix (sometimes still called IBVs or independent BIOS vendors); device manufacturers such as Lenovo, Dell, and HP; and the makers of the CPUs that go inside the devices, usually Intel, AMD or designers of ARM CPUs….

As its name suggests, LogoFAIL involves logos, specifically those of the hardware seller that are displayed on the device screen early in the boot process, while the UEFI is still running. Image parsers in UEFIs from all three major IBVs are riddled with roughly a dozen critical vulnerabilities that have gone unnoticed until now. By replacing the legitimate logo images with identical-looking ones that have been specially crafted to exploit these bugs, LogoFAIL makes it possible to execute malicious code at the most sensitive stage of the boot process, which is known as DXE, short for Driver Execution Environment.

“Once arbitrary code execution is achieved during the DXE phase, it’s game over for platform security,” researchers from Binarly, the security firm that discovered the vulnerabilities, wrote in a whitepaper. “From this stage, we have full control over the memory and the disk of the target device, thus including the operating system that will be started.”

From there, LogoFAIL can deliver a second-stage payload that drops an executable onto the hard drive before the main OS has even started.


It’s an interesting vulnerability. Corporate buyers want the ability to display their own logos, and not the logos of the hardware makers. So the ability has to be in the BIOS, which means that the vulnerabilities aren’t being protected by any of the OS’s defenses. And the BIOS makers probably pulled some random graphics library off the Internet and never gave it a moment’s thought after that.

Deploying firmware at Cloudflare-scale: updating thousands of servers in more than 285 cities

Post Syndicated from Chris Howells original https://blog.cloudflare.com/deploying-firmware-at-cloudflare-scale-how-we-update-thousands-of-servers-in-more-than-285-cities/

Deploying firmware at Cloudflare-scale: updating thousands of servers in more than 285 cities

Deploying firmware at Cloudflare-scale: updating thousands of servers in more than 285 cities

As a security company, it’s critical that we have good processes for dealing with security issues. We regularly release software to our servers – on a daily basis even – which includes new features, bug fixes, and as required, security patches. But just as critical is the software which is embedded into the server hardware, known as firmware. Primarily of interest is the BIOS and Baseboard Management Controller (BMC), but many other components also have firmware such as Network Interface Cards (NICs).

As the world becomes more digital, software which needs updating is appearing in more and more devices. As well as my computer, over the last year, I have waited patiently while firmware has updated in my TV, vacuum cleaner, lawn mower and light bulbs. It can be a cumbersome process, including obtaining the firmware, deploying it to the device which needs updating, navigating menus and other commands to initiate the update, and then waiting several minutes for the update to complete.

Firmware updates can be annoying even if you only have a couple of devices. We have more than a few devices at Cloudflare. We have a huge number of servers of varying kinds, from varying vendors, spread over 285 cities worldwide. We need to be able to rapidly deploy various types of firmware updates to all of them, reliably, and automatically, without any kind of manual intervention.

In this blog post I will outline the methods that we use to automate firmware deployment to our entire fleet. We have been using this method for several years now, and have deployed firmware without interrupting our SRE team, entirely automatically.


A key component of our ability to deploy firmware at scale is the iPXE, an open source boot loader. iPXE is the glue which operates between the server and operating system, and is responsible for loading the operating system after the server has completed the Power On Self Test (POST). It is very flexible and contains a scripting language. With iPXE, we can write boot scripts which query the firmware version, continue booting if the correct firmware version is deployed, or if not, boot into a flashing environment to flash the correct firmware.

We only deploy new firmware when our systems are out of production, so we need a method to coordinate deployment only on out of production systems. The simplest way to do this is when they are rebooting, because by definition they are out of production then. We reboot our entire fleet every month, and have the ability to schedule reboots more urgently if required to deal with a security issue. Regularly rebooting our fleets has many advantages. We can deploy the latest Linux kernel, base operating system, and ensure that we do not have any breaking changes in our operating system and configuration management environment that breaks on fresh boot.

Our entire fleet operates in UEFI mode. UEFI is a modern replacement for the BIOS and offers more features and more security, such as Secure Boot. A full description of all of these changes is outside the scope of this article, but essentially UEFI provides a minimal environment and shell capable of executing binaries. Secure Boot ensures that the binaries are signed with keys embedded in the system, to prevent a bad actor from tampering with our software.

How we update the BIOS

We are able to update the BIOS without booting any operating system, purely by taking advantage of features offered by iPXE and the UEFI shell. This requires a flashing binary written for the UEFI environment.

Upon boot, iPXE is started. Through iPXE’s built-in variable ${smbios/0.5.0}  it is possible to query the current BIOS version, and compare it to the latest version, and trigger a flash only if there is a mis-match.  iPXE then downloads the files required for the firmware update to a ramdisk.

The following is an example of a very basic iPXE script which performs such an action:

# Check whether the BIOS version is 2.03
iseq ${smbios/0.5.0} 2.03 || goto biosupdate
echo Nothing to do for {{ model }}
exit 0

echo Trying to update BIOS/UEFI...
echo Current: ${smbios/0.5.0}
echo New: 2.03

imgfetch ${boot_prefix}/tools/x64/shell.efi || goto unexpected_error
imgfetch startup.nsh || goto unexpected_error

imgfetch AfuEfix64.efi || goto unexpected_error
imgfetch bios-2.03.bin || goto unexpected_error

imgexec shell.efi || goto unexpected_error

Meanwhile, startup.nsh contains the binary to run and command line arguments to effect the flash:


%homefilesystem%\AfuEfix64.efi %homefilesystem%\bios-2.03.bin /P /B /K /N /X /RLC:E /REBOOT

After rebooting, the machine will boot using its new BIOS firmware, version 2.03. Since ${smbios/0.5.0} now contains 2.03, the machine continues to boot and enter production.

Other firmware updates such as BMC, network cards and more

Unfortunately, the number of vendors that support firmware updates with UEFI flashing binaries is limited. There are a large number of other updates that we need to perform such as BMC and NIC.

Deploying firmware at Cloudflare-scale: updating thousands of servers in more than 285 cities

Consequently, we need another way to flash these binaries. Thankfully, these vendors invariably support flashing from Linux. Consequently we can perform flashing from a minimal Linux environment. Since vendor firmware updates are typically closed source utilities and vendors are often highly secretive about firmware flashing, we can ensure that the flashing environment does not provide an attackable surface by ensuring that the network is not configured. If it’s not on the network, it can’t be attacked and exploited.

Not being on the network means that we need to inject files into the boot process when the machine boots. We can accomplish this with an initial ramdisk (initrd), and iPXE makes it easy to add additional initrd to the boot.

Creating an initrd is as simple as creating an archive of the files using cpio using the newc archive format.

Let’s imagine we are going to flash Broadcom NIC firmware. We’ll use the bnxtnvm firmware update utility, the firmware image firmware.pkg, and a shell script called flash to automate the task.

The files are laid out in the file system like this:

cd broadcom
find .

Now we compress all of these files into an image called broadcom.img.

find . | cpio --quiet -H newc -o | gzip -9 -n > ../broadcom.img

This is the first step completed; we have the firmware packaged up into an initrd.

Since it’s challenging to read, say, the firmware version of the NIC, from the EFI shell, we store firmware versions as UEFI variables. These can be written from Linux via efivars, the UEFI variable file system, and then read by iPXE on boot.

An example of writing an EFI variable from Linux looks like this:

declare -r fw_path='/sys/firmware/efi/efivars/broadcom-fw-9ca25c23-368a-4c21-943f-7d91f2b76008'
declare -r efi_header='\x07\x00\x00\x00'
declare -r version='1.05'

/bin/mount -o remount,rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime none /sys/firmware/efi/efivars

# Files on efivarfs are immutable by default, so remove the immutable flag so that we can write to it: https://docs.kernel.org/filesystems/efivarfs.html
if [ -f "${fw_path}" ] ; then
    /usr/bin/chattr -i "${fw_path}"

echo -n -e "${efi_header}${version}" >| "$fw_path"

Then we can write an iPXE configuration file to load the flashing kernel, userland and flashing utilities.

set cf/guid 9ca25c23-368a-4c21-943f-7d91f2b76008

iseq ${efivar/broadcom-fw-${cf/guid}} 1.05 && echo Not flashing broadcom firmware, version already at 1.05 || goto update

echo Starting broadcom firmware update
kernel ${boot_prefix}/vmlinuz initrd=baseimg.img initrd=linux-initramfs-modules.img initrd=broadcom.img
initrd ${boot_prefix}/baseimg.img
initrd ${boot_prefix}/linux-initramfs-modules.img
initrd ${boot_prefix}/firmware/broadcom.img

Flashing scripts are deposited into /opt/preflight/scripts and we use systemd to execute them with run-parts on boot:


Description=Pre-salt checks and simple configurations on boot

ExecStart=/bin/run-parts --verbose /opt/preflight/scripts


An example flashing script in /opt/preflight/scripts might look like:


trap 'catch $? $LINENO' ERR
    #error handling goes here
    echo "Error $1 occured on line $2"

declare -r fw_path='/sys/firmware/efi/efivars/broadcom-fw-9ca25c23-368a-4c21-943f-7d91f2b76008'
declare -r efi_header='\x07\x00\x00\x00'
declare -r version='1.05'

lspci | grep -q Broadcom
if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then
    echo "Broadcom firmware flashing starting"
    if [ ! -f "$fw_path" ] ; then
        chmod +x /opt/broadcom/bnxtnvm
        declare -r interface=$(/opt/broadcom/bnxtnvm listdev | grep "Device Interface Name" | awk -F ": " '{print $2}')
        /opt/broadcom/bnxtnvm -dev=${interface} -force -y install /opt/broadcom/BCM957414M4142C.pkg
        declare -r status=$?
        declare -r currentversion=$(/opt/broadcom/bnxtnvm -dev=${interface} device_info | grep "Package version on NVM" | awk -F ": " '{print $2}')
        declare -r expectedversion=$(echo $version | awk '{print $2}')
        if [ $status -eq 0 -a "$currentversion" = "$expectedversion" ]; then
            echo "Broadcom firmware $version flashed successfully"
            /bin/mount -o remount,rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime none /sys/firmware/efi/efivars
            echo -n -e "${efi_header}${version}" >| "$fw_path"
            echo "Created $fw_path"
            echo "Failed to flash Broadcom firmware $version"
            /opt/broadcom/bnxtnvm -dev=${interface} device_info
        echo "Broadcom firmware up-to-date"
    echo "No Broadcom NIC installed"
    /bin/mount -o remount,rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime none /sys/firmware/efi/efivars
    if [ -f "${fw_path}" ] ; then
        /usr/bin/chattr -i "${fw_path}"
    echo -n -e "${efi_header}${version}" >| "$fw_path"
    echo "Created $fw_path"

if [ -f "${fw_path}" ]; then
    echo "rebooting in 60 seconds"
    sleep 60


Whether you manage just your laptop or desktop computer, or a fleet of servers, it’s important to keep the firmware updated to ensure that the availability, performance and security of the devices is maintained.

If you have a few devices and would benefit from automating the deployment process, we hope that we have inspired you to have a go by making use of some basic open source tools such as the iPXE boot loader and some scripting.

Final thanks to my colleague Ignat Korchagin who did a large amount of the original work on the UEFI BIOS firmware flashing infrastructure.

Another Malware with Persistence

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/03/another-malware-with-persistence.html

Here’s a piece of Chinese malware that infects SonicWall security appliances and survives firmware updates.

On Thursday, security firm Mandiant published a report that said threat actors with a suspected nexus to China were engaged in a campaign to maintain long-term persistence by running malware on unpatched SonicWall SMA appliances. The campaign was notable for the ability of the malware to remain on the devices even after its firmware received new firmware.

“The attackers put significant effort into the stability and persistence of their tooling,” Mandiant researchers Daniel Lee, Stephen Eckels, and Ben Read wrote. “This allows their access to the network to persist through firmware updates and maintain a foothold on the network through the SonicWall Device.”

To achieve this persistence, the malware checks for available firmware upgrades every 10 seconds. When an update becomes available, the malware copies the archived file for backup, unzips it, mounts it, and then copies the entire package of malicious files to it. The malware also adds a backdoor root user to the mounted file. Then, the malware rezips the file so it’s ready for installation.

“The technique is not especially sophisticated, but it does show considerable effort on the part of the attacker to understand the appliance update cycle, then develop and test a method for persistence,” the researchers wrote.

BlackLotus Malware Hijacks Windows Secure Boot Process

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/03/blacklotus-malware-hijacks-windows-secure-boot-process.html

Researchers have discovered malware that “can hijack a computer’s boot process even when Secure Boot and other advanced protections are enabled and running on fully updated versions of Windows.”

Dubbed BlackLotus, the malware is what’s known as a UEFI bootkit. These sophisticated pieces of malware target the UEFI—short for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface—the low-level and complex chain of firmware responsible for booting up virtually every modern computer. As the mechanism that bridges a PC’s device firmware with its operating system, the UEFI is an OS in its own right. It’s located in an SPI-connected flash storage chip soldered onto the computer motherboard, making it difficult to inspect or patch. Previously discovered bootkits such as CosmicStrand, MosaicRegressor, and MoonBounce work by targeting the UEFI firmware stored in the flash storage chip. Others, including BlackLotus, target the software stored in the EFI system partition.

Because the UEFI is the first thing to run when a computer is turned on, it influences the OS, security apps, and all other software that follows. These traits make the UEFI the perfect place to launch malware. When successful, UEFI bootkits disable OS security mechanisms and ensure that a computer remains infected with stealthy malware that runs at the kernel mode or user mode, even after the operating system is reinstalled or a hard drive is replaced.

ESET has an analysis:

The number of UEFI vulnerabilities discovered in recent years and the failures in patching them or revoking vulnerable binaries within a reasonable time window hasn’t gone unnoticed by threat actors. As a result, the first publicly known UEFI bootkit bypassing the essential platform security feature—UEFI Secure Boot—is now a reality. In this blogpost we present the first public analysis of this UEFI bootkit, which is capable of running on even fully-up-to-date Windows 11 systems with UEFI Secure Boot enabled. Functionality of the bootkit and its individual features leads us to believe that we are dealing with a bootkit known as BlackLotus, the UEFI bootkit being sold on hacking forums for $5,000 since at least October 2022.


  • It’s capable of running on the latest, fully patched Windows 11 systems with UEFI Secure Boot enabled.
  • It exploits a more than one year old vulnerability (CVE-2022-21894) to bypass UEFI Secure Boot and set up persistence for the bootkit. This is the first publicly known, in-the-wild abuse of this vulnerability.
  • Although the vulnerability was fixed in Microsoft’s January 2022 update, its exploitation is still possible as the affected, validly signed binaries have still not been added to the UEFI revocation list. BlackLotus takes advantage of this, bringing its own copies of legitimate—but vulnerable—binaries to the system in order to exploit the vulnerability.
  • It’s capable of disabling OS security mechanisms such as BitLocker, HVCI, and Windows Defender.
  • Once installed, the bootkit’s main goal is to deploy a kernel driver (which, among other things, protects the bootkit from removal), and an HTTP downloader responsible for communication with the C&C and capable of loading additional user-mode or kernel-mode payloads.

This is impressive stuff.