TrickBoot feature allows TrickBot bot to run UEFI attacks

Pierluigi Paganini December 03, 2020

TrickBot, one of the most active botnets, in the world, gets a new improvement by adding a UEFI/BIOS Bootkit Feature.

The infamous TrickBot gets a new improvement, authors added a new feature dubbed “TrickBoot” designed to exploit well-known vulnerabilities in the UEFI/BIOS firmware and inject malicious code, such as bootkits.

The TrickBoot functionality was documented by experts from Advanced Intelligence (AdvIntel) and Eclypsium.

“This new functionality, which we have dubbed “TrickBoot,” makes use of readily available tools to check devices for well-known vulnerabilities that can allow attackers to read, write, or erase the UEFI/BIOS firmware of a device.” reads the joint analysis published by AdvIntel and Eclypsium.

“This marks a significant step in the evolution of TrickBot as UEFI level implants are the deepest, most powerful, and stealthy form of bootkits. by adding the ability to canvas victim devices for specific UEFI/BIOS firmware vulnerabilities, TrickBot actors are able to target specific victims with firmware-level persistence that survives re-imaging or even device bricking capability.”

The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is a specification that defines a software interface between an operating system and platform firmware. UEFI replaces the legacy Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) firmware interface originally present in all IBM PC-compatible personal computers, with most UEFI firmware implementations providing support for legacy BIOS services. UEFI can support remote diagnostics and repair of computers, even with no operating system installed.

Over the years, experts observed several attacks employing rootkits that were specifically developed to target the firmware to achieve persistence and bypassing security solutions.

The Secure Boot mechanism allows the execution of only software that is trusted by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). 

Injecting a malicious code in the UEFI/BIOS firmware of a device could allow attackers to achieve persistence on the device and make the malware undetectable to common Anti-malware solutions.

TrickBot is a popular banking Trojan that has been around since October 2016, its authors have continuously upgraded it by implementing new features and continues to offer it through a multi-purpose malware-as-a-service (MaaS) model. Threat actors leverage the botnet to distribute a broad range of malware including info-stealer and ransomware such as Conti and Ryuk. To date, the Trickbot botnet has already infected more than a million computers.

The most common attack chain observed by threat actors begins via EMOTET malspam campaigns, which then loads TrickBot and/or other loaders.

Trickbot uefi

Thanks to the new improvement TrickBot can carry out UEFI attacks that could be also part of hacking campaigns of nation-state actors.

The new functionality was observed for the first time in October 2020, after the takedown attempts carried out by a joint operation that involved multiple security firms led by Microsoft.

“As is often the case with new TrickBot modules, the name “PermaDll” or the original name as “user_platform_check.dll” caught the attention of Advanced Intelligence researchers during the October 2020 discovery of the new TrickBot attack chain.” continues the analysis. ““Perma,” sounding akin to “permanent,” was intriguing enough on its own to want to understand this module’s role in TrickBot’s newest arsenal of loadable modules with the usual TrickBot export modules.”

The TrickBoot targets the SPI flash chip where the boot process begins, it leverages the RwDrv.sys driver from the popular RWEverything tool to interact with the SPI controller and check if the BIOS control register is unlocked.

“RWEverything (read-write everything) is a powerful tool that can allow an attacker to write to the firmware on virtually any device component, including the SPI controller that governs the system UEFI/BIOS.” continues the post. “This can allow an attacker to write malicious code to the system firmware, ensuring that attacker code executes before the operating system while also hiding the code outside of the system drives.”

Although the activity spotted by the researcher is limited to reconnaissance, they point out that the same mechanism could be exploited to write malicious code to the system firmware.

To mitigate such attacks, enable BIOS write protections, in September The US National Security Agency (NSA) published guidance on the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Secure Boot customization.

“These threat actors are collecting targets that are verified to be vulnerable to firmware modification, and one line of code could change this reconnaissance module into an attack function. Like other in-the-wild firmware attacks, TrickBot reused publicly available code to quickly and easily enable these new firmware-level capabilities.” concludes the experts.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, UEFI/BIOS)

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