Malware's Potential Next Target: Hardware

Thursday Nov 18th 2010 by Sue Poremba
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French researchers have found that it is possible to write code specifically geared for processors.

For years, the target for malware has been software and operating systems. 

Now, according to an article in Security Dark Reading, malware appears to have a new target: hardware. Apparently, French researchers have found that it is possible to write code specifically geared for processors.  The article stated:

Anthony Desnos, Robert Erra, and Eric Filiol, of Ecole Superieure d'Informatique Electronique Automatique (ESIEA) in Paris, have developed a proof-of-concept for hardware-specific malware, which they consider a step up from Stuxnet and a potentially key weapon in cyberwarfare. The malware can easily identify and target specific hardware systems based on the on-board processor chip, the researchers say.

The good news (I guess) is that while attacking the hardware is possible, it isn't easy.  According to an article at The Inquirer:

However this technique isn't quite as fine-grained yet as malware attackers might want. The researchers admit that their identification techniques cannot pin-point particular processors, however they say that such an attack could "enable far more precise and targeted attacks, at a finer level in a large network of heterogeneous machines but with generic malware".

It's a situation that we'll definitely have to keep an eye on.

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