from the not-so-super-it-seems dept.
Submitted via IRC for mechanicjay
We have already seen both proof-of-concept and in-the-wild demonstrations of attacks targeting system firmware such as SMM rootkits, device firmware replacement, and even usurping firmware-based features for malware. As part of our ongoing security research efforts, we recently reviewed various Supermicro systems and discovered serious firmware vulnerabilities. Such issues affect many models and have persisted for many years, which could be problematic since these systems are commonly used as data center servers. As other researchers have shown, Supermicro is not alone. Security vulnerabilities in firmware continue to be discovered regularly. Unfortunately, malicious activity at the firmware and hardware level is invisible to most detection and response mechanisms in use today, leaving many critical systems exposed to attacks that target this area.
These vulnerabilities are easily exploitable and provide malware with the same impact as having physical access to the kind of system that is usually stored in a secure data center. A physical attacker who can open the case could simply attach a hardware programmer to bypass protections. Using the attacks we have discovered, it is possible to scale powerful malware much more effectively through malicious software instead of physical access.
Five days after Bloomberg stunned the world with still-unconfirmed allegations that Chinese spies embedded data-sniffing chips in hardware used by Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies, the news organization is doubling down. Bloomberg is now reporting that a different factory-seeded manipulation from the previously described one was discovered in August inside the network of a major US telecommunications company.
Bloomberg didn't name the company, citing a non-disclosure agreement between the unnamed telecom and the security firm it hired to scan its data centers. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile all told Ars they weren't the telecom mentioned in the Bloomberg post. Verizon and CenturyLink also denied finding backdoored Supermicro hardware in their datacenters, Motherboard reported.
Tuesday's report cites documents, analysis, and other evidence provided by Yossi Appleboum, who is co-CEO of a hardware security firm called Sepio Systems. Bloomberg said that, while Sepio was scanning servers belonging to the unnamed telecom, the firm detected unusual communications from a server designed by Supermicro. Supermicro, according to last week's Bloomberg report, is the hardware manufacturer whose motherboards were modified in the factory to include a tiny microchip that caused attached servers to come under the control of a previously unreported division of China's People's Liberation Army. Supermicro told Bloomberg it had no knowledge of the implant, marking the second time the hardware maker has denied knowing anything about the reported manipulations.
[...] The criticism was still at full pitch on Tuesday morning when Bloomberg published its follow-up article. While it names a single source, some security experts quickly challenged the credibility of the report. "Sure this story has one named source but it technically makes even less sense than the first one," Cris Thomas, a security expert who tweets under the handle SpaceRogue, wrote. "Come on @Bloomberg get somebody who knows what they're talking about to write these stories. Calling BS on this one as well."
In a letter to customers issued December 11, Supermicro President and CEO Charles Liang and other top executives announced that an audit conducted by an outside investigating team had found no evidence of any malicious hardware incorporated into motherboards currently or previously manufactured by the company. The letter is the latest rebuttal to Bloomberg reports in October that claimed tiny chips that provided a backdoor for China's intelligence agencies had been integrated into boards provided to major Internet and cloud providers—a report also refuted by the companies the report claimed were targeted.
"After a thorough examination and a range of functional tests, the investigative firm found absolutely no evidence of malicious hardware on our motherboards," the letter signed by Liang, Supermicro Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer David Weigland, and Senior VP and Chief Product Officer Raju Penumatcha stated.
Searching for site:soylentnews.org supermicro on Google brought up a Supermicro ad linking the CEO letter, with the link entitled "Supermicro Independent Testing | No Malicious Hardware". Do you believe them?
Previously: Chinese Spy Chips Allegedly Inserted Into Amazon, Apple, etc. Datacenters by Super Micro
Bloomberg Stands by Chinese Chip Story as Apple, Amazon Ratchet up Denials
Bloomberg Claims That a Major U.S. Telecom Operated a Server Backdoored by a Hidden Chip
Related: Apple Deleted Server Supplier After Finding Infected Firmware in Servers
Firmware Vulnerabilities in Supermicro Systems
Supermicro Announces Suspension of Trading of Common Stock on Nasdaq and its Intention to Appeal