Tuesday, 26 March 2019 09:55

ASUS Live Update security issues known in 2016

ASUS Live Update security issues known in 2016 Image by OpenIcons from Pixabay

Security issues with the ASUS Live Update utility, which is claimed to have been used in a supply chain attack by a nation-state, were highlighted as far back as 2016, with a security analysis of OEM updaters by three researchers from the firm Duo Security slamming the Taiwan-based firm over its lax approach to updating.

Kaspersky Lab claimed on Monday that it had uncovered a sophisticated supply chain attack using the live update utility, with the attack having taken place between June and November 2018. The ASUS utility is used to update the BIOS, UEFI, drivers and applications.

Duo Security's Darren Kemp, Chris Czub and Mikhail Davidov wrote in their study: "ASUS appears to be one of the worst OEMs we looked at, providing attackers with functionality that can only be referred to as remote code execution as a service.

"The 'Asus Live Update' software contains no security features whatsoever, allowing for easy exploitation. Oh yeah, we should probably mention they use this atrocity to push out BIOS updates too."

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They pointed out that ASUS transmitted its manifest over HTTP and made no use of any sort of signing mechanism to enforce integrity.

"By intercepting the manifest, an attacker can rewrite it to execute arbitrary commands with administrative privileges," the three researchers said.

  • "An example MITM (man-in-the-middle attack is as follows:
  • "An increased version number is presented, forcing the processing of the update.
  • "Set the update severity to 'critical' so that it gets processed immediately and without any user intervention.
  • "Change the execute parameter to be whatever we would like, such as 'cmd.exe%%/K calc'."

Kemp, Czub and Davidov also pointed out that there was weak encryption used by ASUS and no authenticode validation.

They questioned why TLS support wasn't used with certificate pinning to help ensure the authenticity and integrity of executables and manifests.

From examining a snippet of coded, they found that the company had tried to add TLS support, but didn’t quite finish it.

The trio also looked at other OEMs like Dell, HP, Lenovo and Acer. Duo Security is now owned by Cisco.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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