Apr 8, 2021

Should firms be more worried about firmware cyber-attacks?

Firmware is a type of permanent software code used to control each hardware component in a PC. Increasingly, cyber-criminals are designing malware that quietly tampers with the firmware in motherboards, which tell the PC to start up, or with the firmware in hardware drivers. There have been several major firmware attacks discovered in the last two years, such as RobbinHood, a ransomware that uses firmware to gain root access to a victim's computer and then encrypts all files until a Bitcoin ransom has been paid. "If device firmware has no protection in place, or if the protection can be bypassed, then firmware compromise is both incredibly serious and potentially invisible," explains Chris Boyd, a malware intelligence analyst at security firm Malwarebytes. Carrying out a firmware attack might be complex, says Mr Cirlig, but if attackers could silently steal critical information from a c-suite executive's laptop, like passwords, they could then use it to infiltrate a company's networks and steal more data. Mr Boyd adds that a new generation of "Budding hardware enthusiasts" who have been learning their way around firmware by "Modding video game consoles over the last decade" could well pose additional threats to enterprise cyber-security going forward - a point Mt Cirlig fervently agrees with, since he hacked the firmware in his own car when he was younger.

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