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Malware Thatís Transmitted Through Sound

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marswalker
User Rank
Iron
Re: Its all hype
marswalker   12/19/2013 2:47:12 PM
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On the one hand you have a good point - the underlying point is that most computers don't have the ability to "record" or transmit audio-based packets.  But the flip side is most laptops today come with speakers and microphones that are perfectly suited for this kind of exchange, so all that is needed is malware that can use the existing resources.  This is the interesting part of the BadBIOS assertion - computers that were already infected seemed to be able to re-infect affected files while the computer was being "cleaned", even when the wireless cards had been removed and they weren't plugged in via ethernet.  By using subaudible sounds the infected computers were able to retransimt malware between each-other - using "network" packets - that were sent via laptop speakers.

78RPM
User Rank
Gold
Re: New Threat
78RPM   12/19/2013 1:51:09 PM
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Here's another possibility for an attack vector. The attack could be launched from an FM radio station or a PA system.

78RPM
User Rank
Gold
Re: More solutions needed
78RPM   12/19/2013 1:09:01 PM
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Here's a possible attack vector: Suppose a vendor is working in an area where computers have microphones, e.g., a customer support phone center or a recording studio or a radio station. The vendor is trusted and brings in his laptop to do maintenance.  He turns on an audio file which does some frequency shifting stealth. Most mics' frequency response is 15KHz or even 20KHz but most adults can't hear in that range too well, so a shifting frequency might not be noticed.  A malicious file is transferred into the network where a host has been planted by the malicious vendor to exploit the new file, or the file itself might be wormy enough to be self sufficient.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Re: More solutions needed
William K.   12/19/2013 11:35:52 AM
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The filters mentioned would not be very complex nor that expensive. All that they need to do is cut off within the audible frequenncy range, or someplace below the high end of the audible spectrum. So unless a device is being used to record music, a cutoff frequency of 5 or 6 kilohetz would render the computer insensitive to any frequency high enough to be inaudible.

And I would point out to those who claim that the computer is not "listening" to it's microphone that they are probably wrong. Windows has so many things going on that we never asked it to do, and would not ever ask it to do, if we had a choice, that it probably is waiting for data at the audio inputs all the time. One option micht be to put some heavy duct tape over the computer's microphone, while another could be to plug a dummy microphone connector into the mic jack, which ought to disconnect the internal microphone. I have not verified that it does that on all brands and models, but it does do it on some computers. 

And it is certain that if there does exist some weakness in the bloated OS there will be some evil hackers exploiting it. That reality has been demonstrated thousands of times.

marswalker
User Rank
Iron
Re: New Threat
marswalker   12/19/2013 10:39:04 AM
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Here is the article I read this about on at the end of summer: http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/35661/badbios-the-god-of-malware/

Elizabeth M
User Rank
Blogger
Re: New Threat
Elizabeth M   12/19/2013 10:29:34 AM
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So as another reader pointed out, then, 78RPM, these sound-based malware threats are already out there and being exploited. What can be done now?

Elizabeth M
User Rank
Blogger
Re: New Threat
Elizabeth M   12/19/2013 10:10:05 AM
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Wow, so this threat is already being exploited it seems, if what you say is true, marswalker.

brhans
User Rank
Iron
Its all hype
brhans   12/19/2013 9:37:17 AM
I can't imagine how this could ever be a serious vulnerability. In order for the receiving device to be even the tiniest bit succeptible to infection it first needs to be actually listening (which most devices are not) and then even if it were listening, it would need to be doing so in such a way as to make the sound 'information' received executable as code.

The only way this would ever work is if the receiving device already has some sort of software (malware) installed and running to allow this - and if this is already pre-installed, then you've already been infected by more conventional means.

All these 'researchers' have really done is build themselves an acoustic modem which annoys dogs. Acoustic modems in various forms have been around for decades. Whether or not it can successfuly be used to transmit 'malware' is entirely dependant on what is on the receiving end listening. Even the most virulent malware will hit a dead end if it falls on deaf ears.

Its just a communications medium, not a particularly novel or useful one, and doesn't deserve the hype from trying to associate it with malware.

marswalker
User Rank
Iron
Re: New Threat
marswalker   12/19/2013 9:35:12 AM
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Perhaps not so new?  Though there has been a lot of speculation that "it couldn't possibly be real", BadBIOS is reported to use exactly this kind of vulnerability to re-infect machines while they are being "cleaned" by antivirus software, etc.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
More solutions needed
Charles Murray   12/18/2013 6:20:03 PM
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I have no objection to studies being done on this, I just wish the studies had included more ways of addressing the problem. Shutting down the audio input/output of the computer isn't a solution. I'd like to hear more about the audio filters they mentioned. As it stands now, we've verified that there is a potential problem, thus providing malicious new ideas for hackers who weren't already aware of it, but we're admitting we don't really know much about the solution. This seems wrong. As 78RPM points out, if the vulnerability is public, circulation of the problem can't be far behind.

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