Nov. 5th, 2013

thewayne: (Cyranose)
The system is known as badBIOS, and it can spread from an infected computer to a clean computer with no network connection via the infected computer's speakers and microphone. Basically it's a reversion to modem technology where digital data was sent using audio coding, only in this case it's using frequencies above human hearing (I hesitate to use the term ultrasonic) to transmit the infection.

Ruiu said he arrived at the theory about badBIOS's high-frequency networking capability after observing encrypted data packets being sent to and from an infected machine that had no obvious network connection with -- but was in close proximity to -- another badBIOS-infected computer. The packets were transmitted even when one of the machines had its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards removed. Ruiu also disconnected the machine's power cord to rule out the possibility it was receiving signals over the electrical connection. Even then, forensic tools showed the packets continued to flow over the airgapped machine. Then, when Ruiu removed internal speaker and microphone connected to the airgapped machine, the packets suddenly stopped.

With the speakers and mic intact, Ruiu said, the isolated computer seemed to be using the high-frequency connection to maintain the integrity of the badBIOS infection as he worked to dismantle software components the malware relied on.

"The airgapped machine is acting like it's connected to the Internet," he said. "Most of the problems we were having is we were slightly disabling bits of the components of the system. It would not let us disable some things. Things kept getting fixed automatically as soon as we tried to break them. It was weird."

So now if you need an air-gapped machine, you need to yank the sound card and microphone. Oh: it can infect Windows, Mac, BSD, and Linux machines. And it's been around for around three years. The Ars Technica article is quite interesting, I recommend reading it.

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