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UEFI malware rears ugly head again: Kaspersky uncovers campaign with whiff of China

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It’s like Hacking Team all over again

Russian antivirus maker Kaspersky has said it uncovered “rogue UEFI firmware images” – malware – seemingly developed by black hats with links to China. The rogue images had been “modified from their benign counterpart to incorporate several malicious modules”, according to a post on Kaspersky’s Securelist blog, which named the attack MosaicRegressor.

“MosaicRegressor is a multi-stage and modular framework aimed at espionage and data gathering. It consists of downloaders, and occasionally multiple intermediate loaders, that are intended to fetch and execute payload on victim machines,” said Kaspersky in a statement.

The firm explained that UEFI firmware is “typically shipped within SPI flash storage that is soldered to the computer’s motherboard”, and thus any malware injected into it is “resistant to OS reinstallation or replacement of the hard drive.” The technique shot to public prominence in 2015 when malware-for-governments purveyor Hacking Team was itself hacked, with details of its firmware-level spyware becoming public knowledge.

The malware-laden MosaicRegressor images were discovered in use as part of a wider campaign targeting charities in Africa, Asia, and Europe, “all showing ties in their activity to North Korea” – though Kaspersky attributed the malicious software to “a Chinese-speaking” person or group, possibly connected to the Winnti hacking crew. A single IP address mentioned in a previous list of suspected C2 infrastructure linked to Winnti gave Kaspersky a clue as to its origins, though no more than that.

“After further analysis we were able to determine that [the UEFI images] were based on the leaked source code of Hacking Team’s VectorEDK bootkit, with minor customizations,” the company added.

The malicious firmware modules wrote…

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