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The Rootkit Arsenal 79

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
Nicola Hahn writes "One of the first things I noticed while flipping through this hefty book is the sheer number of topics covered. Perhaps this is a necessity. As the author puts it, rootkits lie "at the intersection of several related disciplines: computer security, forensics, reverse-engineering, system internals, and device drivers." Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that great pains have been taken to cover each subject in sufficient depth and to present ideas in a manner that's both articulate and well organized. This accounts for the book's girth; it weighs in at roughly 900 pages." Keep reading for the rest of Nicola's review.
The Rootkit Arsenal
author Reverend Bill Blunden
pages 916
publisher Wordware Publishing
rating 5 Shuriken
reviewer Nicola Hahn
ISBN 1598220616
summary A solid treatment of rootkits and anti-forensics
This book is comprehensive enough to appeal to both novices and journeymen. To set the stage, the Rootkit Arsenal begins with a review of foundation material: the IA-32 execution environment, memory management, kernel-mode subtleties, call hooking, detour patching, and so forth. Yet, while the author devotes a significant amount of effort to explaining prerequisites and customary rootkit techniques, there's an abundance of more sophisticated content to engage more experienced members of the audience. For example, his explanation of how to use the WSK API and the most recent incarnation of the NDIS library (version 6.0) to construct covert channels over DNS is worth a read. I also appreciated his meticulous discussion of how to properly install Call Gates and handle the foibles of multi-processor systems.

One of the book's strong points is that there's coverage of issues which traditionally haven't appeared in books on this subject. For instance, there are several sections devoted to the Windows startup process and how it relates to the operation of bootkits. Part 3 of the book, which consists of four chapters, focuses on anti-forensics, with an emphasis on defeating file system analysis and the examination of an unknown executable. To this end, Reverend Bill ventures off into the tactics used to implement binary armoring, FISTing, obfuscation, code morphing, file scrubbing, and data contraception.

Not content to merely explain the basic mechanics of a particular scheme, Reverend Bill often illustrates how he derived his results and encourages the reader to verify what they've seen with a kernel debugger. This is a recurring theme throughout the book. Rather than just teach the reader a collection of tricks, the author demonstrates how the reader can identify new ones independently. After all, specific holes come and go, but the art of finding new ones will always have utility. This more than justifies the lengthy discussion of kernel debugging earlier on in the book.

All told, the book is reasonably self-contained. The source code examples are clean, instructive, and have been included in the book's appendix. As Reverend Blunden notes, the "Rootkit Arsenal" isn't about a specific rootkit that someone wrote (though such books exist). It's really about the rootkit that the reader will construct, such that the focus is on the nature of the tactics rather than a proof-of-concept rootkit. In this spirit, examples are long enough to illuminate potential sticking points but not so long that the reader feels like they're wading through mud in search of diamonds.

The author also exhibits good form in terms of giving credit where it's due. In the book's preface he specifically acknowledges a number of researchers who have made lasting contributions to the collective repository of knowledge (Mark Ludwig, Greg Hoglund, the grugq, Sven Schreiber, Joanna Rutkowska, Richard Bejtlich, etc.). While the author admits that many of the book's ideas can be unearthed by skulking about obscure regions of the internet, the real service that this book provides is to consolidate all of this disparate information together into one place, offering working implementations of each concept, and doing so in a remarkably lucid manner.

Yet, is this a responsible thing to do? Is it wise to show aspiring Black Hats how to manipulate forensic evidence so that they can implicate innocent people? Will publicizing the finer points of system modification make life easier for aspiring bad guys? Is he basically handing the reader a loaded gun and teaching them the nuances of a kill shot?

To a degree, Reverend Blunden sidesteps this issue as irrelevant. In the end he claims that he's just a broker of information, and that he doesn't care who uses the information or how they use it. If you asked me, this is a bit of a cop out (he sounds a little like an arms dealer). Furthermore, he accuses other authors (the ones who fall back on the traditional argument that they're bolstering security by encouraging vendors to improve their products) of churching up their books in "ethical window dressing." In the eyes of Reverend Bill, this book is what it is ...without apology: another source of useful data.

If I had one complaint about the Rootkit Arsenal, it's that the author sticks primarily to software-based rootkit technology. For instance, he eschews BIOS-based tools. At one point the author states:

"In my opinion, a firmware-based rootkit is essentially a one-shot deal that should only be used in the event of a high-value target where the potential return would justify the R&D required to build it. Also, because of the instance-specific nature of this technique, I'd be hard pressed to offer a single recipe that would a useful to the majority of the reading audience. Though a firmware-related discussion may add a bit of novelty and mystique, in the greater scheme of things it makes much more sense to focus on methods which are transferable from one motherboard to the next."

Last but not least, the author's tendency towards the political arena, which defined a couple of his previous books, rears its head again in The Rootkit Arsenal's final chapter. Here, the good Reverend suggests that if it's possible to control a sprawling operating system like Windows with a relatively small rootkit binary, then perhaps the metaphor carries over into the body politic of the United States. Could a small segment of the population be quietly influencing the trajectory that society takes? Dave Emory and Noam Chomsky look out!

Readers interested in getting a closer look at the book's organization and table to contents can visit the author's web site.

You can purchase The Rootkit Arsenal from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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The Rootkit Arsenal

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  • Ironic (Score:5, Funny)

    by sycodon (149926) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @01:00PM (#27588547)

    This story on how to create malware comes immediately following a story on Slashdot about the increase in Malware.

  • by flaming error (1041742) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @01:07PM (#27588643) Journal

    > is this a responsible thing to do?
    Of course it is. How can we implement security if we don't understand the ways we can be attacked?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @01:16PM (#27588735)

      Just buy Windows Vista. It is the most secure OS ever!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Also this information *IS* already out there. All it does is remove a bit of leg work needed. If you are savvy enough to make a root kit digging for it would not exactly be out of reach...

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Another argument: This proves conclusively that the information is out there in the wild, and that any manufacturer who doesn't do the known things needed to defeat these types of attacks and yet claims to be doing everything they can to improve security is acting in bad faith. I'm not sure that gains you anything but the moral high ground or the smug satisfaction of running something else, if you do... Because it's hard to sell people the facts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816)

      Besides, not publicizing this information amounts to security through obscurity [wikipedia.org]. Nowadays, all security experts with any credibility consider obscurity to be the opposite of security, at least with respect to computer systems. If a vulnerability exists, some malware author will find it, no matter how many nooks and crannies need to be poked into. Even if there are million nooks and crannies, it's easy to automate the search!

      I gotta wonder at the reliability of an author who insists on using his affiliation

      • "Nowadays, all security experts with any credibility consider obscurity to be the opposite of security, at least with respect to computer systems."

        The problem is that some security experts tangle up STO with their philosophy on F/OSS and their dislike for anything MS. So they aren't looking at it solely from a security POV.

        "If a vulnerability exists, some malware author will find it, no matter how many nooks and crannies need to be poked into. Even if there are million nooks and crannies, it's easy to autom

        • by fm6 (162816)

          The problem is that some security experts tangle up STO with their philosophy on F/OSS and their dislike for anything MS.

          Like who? Yes, there are a lot of idiots are there who think that proprietary software is evil, and that MS is Satan. But I don't know any credible security experts who talk that way, just the usual religious nuts.

          Funny how the creators of software can't automatically search for all possible vulnerabilities but malware authors magically can even if they don't have the source code.

          Here's the difference: people probing for security holes aren't on deadline. And there are a lot of them. Think thousands. I mean jeez, nowadays every Mumbai slumdweller with an old laptop is a potential script kiddie. I've worked for software organization of all different sizes, and not even the

          • These people looking for security holes aren't coordinating their efforts, so the number of them (which we can only speculate on) can be misleading when comparing them to team who is attempting to deliver a secure application.

            It's only because of the Agile fad that people started believing that the developer was the only one who should be testing the code. We've known better than that for decades and those who are serious about bugs (security or otherwise) always perform independent review and testing.

    • by leuk_he (194174)

      Well. a book of 900 pages is a formidable weapon. you can beat someone to death with it... Is it hardcover?



  • I really would prefer that Slashdot not help promote a book that is intended to help educate would-be malware coders. While I realize the information would still be out there without this review, Slashdot is undoubtedly contributing sales to the author by raising the profile of this book.

    Seth
    • by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @01:42PM (#27589061) Journal

      I understand that in today's society there are enough people who have ignored their responsibilities and obligations as well as the laws of the land and common decency towards others that you immediately think to the worst that can happen.

      However, the premise of innocent until proven guilty has a deeper meaning towards society in that they will obey the laws of the society and that when faced with the question, they will act responsibly, ethically, and legally. In other words, it's not just a principle that allows criminals to get out of trouble. It's a deeper ideal that speaks to society and how we want to be in general. It's a reflection of values provided by society that people will not act on their own in an unlawful way if they know of the law and have legal options. Based on that simple principle, we need the freedom to educate people who will act in favor of us and in ways detrimental to those who would harm us. If I say "this is how people get killed", it could be enough for someone to know how to kill someone. However, at the same time, it is enough so that others can make changes that stop people from getting killed in that way.

      This book, even though it has the potential of training/educating future malware coders, also has the same if not more potential to train the people who will make the malware ineffective and/or obsolete. Most of the people who would read it would likely have the potential of doing good rather then bad even if the bad they did was because they thought they were doing good.

      When looking at the good in people, or the potential for good, I see nothing wrong with this book nor do I see anything wrong with a review on it. I would hope you can consider this optimistic outlook and wait until you are proven wrong on the concept before taking the negative attitude toward it. Sometimes it's hard to do, especially when we are bombarded by negative news about the failings of people all the time, but I know that they are a minority of society because we simply wouldn't have enough time to hear about the negatives of everyone if that was the case.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shadowofwind (1209890)

        I think your explanation of "presumption of innocence" is very good, even inspiring. And the reviewer seems to be on the same page with it.

        If the reviewer's characterization of the book is accurate however, the book's author does not share this enlightened value. He's not saying "this is how people get killed, and I implicitly presume that you'll use this information innocently". He's saying "this is how people get killed, and whether you use it to protect or murder people is fine with me." That is an o

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          I see your point. It took me a few reads to see that it wasn't just the reviewers opinion over the potential of it being used by bad intentioned people, but the authors agnostic approach to the situation too.

          However, the part about innocent until proven guilty was more or less intended at the readers of the books and not so much to the author who is pretending to be "just a broker of information". I'm not even sure the author should have to make a comment about how the information is used. Remember, we expe

    • by GNUbuntu (1528599) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @02:31PM (#27589629)

      I really would prefer that Slashdot not help promote a book that is intended to help educate would-be malware coders.

      So then they should never post any reviews of any books on the topic of security? Pretty much any book that is going to teach you anything of worth in the are of security is going to have information to help those who want to write malicious code.

      While I realize the information would still be out there without this review, Slashdot is undoubtedly contributing sales to the author by raising the profile of this book.

      So we should just put our fingers in our ears and shut our eyes and pretend it doesn't exist? Yeah that's going to do all of jack and shit.



      • From the book review above: "It's really about the rootkit that the reader will construct, such that the focus is on the nature of the tactics rather than a proof-of-concept rootkit."

        This isn't about security. It's not written from the perspective of, "Attackers will use these techniques, you need to defend in this manner." This is a "Here is how you do some lame shit" guide. I'm not advocating security through obscurity. I'm saying, the guy who wrote this book is trying to make money by equipping retard
        • by GNUbuntu (1528599) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:16PM (#27590231)

          From the book review above: "It's really about the rootkit that the reader will construct, such that the focus is on the nature of the tactics rather than a proof-of-concept rootkit."

          Which is just the reviewers characterization of the author not a direct quote.

          This isn't about security.

          Yes it is.

          It's not written from the perspective of, "Attackers will use these techniques, you need to defend in this manner." This is a "Here is how you do some lame shit" guide.

          Says a person who hasn't actually read the book but is relying on another person's characterization.

          I'm not advocating security through obscurity.

          Actually you are. By saying that we should hide this information away from people because someone could do bad stuff with it is very much security through obscurity.

          I'm saying, the guy who wrote this book is trying to make money by equipping retards with information to fuck up people's computers.

          So you can read the author's mind to know that was his motivation to write this book? That's pretty astounding.

          I would have hoped Slashdot would promote books intended to help protect people's computers.

          But a book that would help people protect themselves and how to fight against rootkits would contain just the same information this book does otherwise it would be worthless.

          • Which is just the reviewers characterization of the author not a direct quote.

            From the Amazon.com 'editorial review': [amazon.com]

            The spectrum of topics covered includes how to:

            * Hook kernel structures on multi-processor systems
            * Use a kernel debugger to reverse engineer operating system internals
            * Inject call gates to create a back door into Ring-0
            * Use detour patches to sidestep group policy
            * Modify privilege levels on Windows Vista by altering kernel objects
            * Utilize bootkit technology
            * Defeat both li

            • by Nazlfrag (1035012)

              If it wasn't for 'scumbags' like this we'd still be rootkitted by Sony and be oblivious to the fact. It's not the black hats writing security books that troubles me, it's the level of abuse by powerful multinationals immune to prosecution which would be impossible to expose without knowledge such as this.

              Your point that this is irresponsible is ludicrous, those who seek this information for nefarious purposes can easily find it on the internet. The only ones who this will help and who will bother to fork ou

      • by muridae (966931)

        So we should just put our fingers in our ears and shut our eyes and pretend it doesn't exist? Yeah that's going to do all of jack and shit.

        But that is what everyone outside the tech world does when we talk about a problem. Why shouldn't it work for us too?

        • by GNUbuntu (1528599)

          Why shouldn't it work for us too?

          Because the last 15 years of Windows viruses/worms have shown that this view doesn't work?

    • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:16PM (#27590239) Journal

      Hey, fuck you. This shit is fascinating, but I don't care to go trawling through the dark underbelly of the internet to get to it. People who actually plan to write rootkits can already get this information. Curious onlookers can't get it easily, until now.

      I've never synthesized a drug in my life, and don't plan to. But PiHKAL [erowid.org] is still one of my favorite books. What's so bad about that?

    • Slashdot is undoubtedly contributing sales to the author by raising the profile of this book.

      Considering how many people around here read past the summery of anything posted, "undoubtedly" isn't the word I would use.

  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @01:16PM (#27588733)
    Binary armour and FISTing? That second term certainly clarifies the need for the first.
  • Let me rephrase that:
    Computers should ship with an "alternative" boot environment that cannot be permanently changed, only toggled to and from the main boot environment.

    The job of the alternative boot environment is to allow cleanup tools to delete threats.

    An example of how this could be done in Vista:
    Boot computer using a back-up, read-only firmware to a Vista CD that had a stripped-down network stack or stripped-down USB-drivers. Having stripped-down software removes some points of vulnerability. From t

    • Thing is, once you are compromised, you shouldn't trust that machine again. You detected and removed something, so you know you were vulnerable. How many are there you DIDN'T detect?

      Format, reinstall.
      • No. Boot from read-only media, flash bios, format, reinstall.

        • by Yaur (1069446)
          If the bios is already compromised how can you trust anything that happens after it boots?
          • You can't. But then again, you can't really trust the pre-flashed chip as it came from the scary third world country either.

            If you're feeling frisky, you can reflash in the hope that you've exceeded the sophistication of anything in the wild.

    • also try backtrack live cd, or deft or helix for forensics
  • time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @01:39PM (#27589013) Homepage

    Forensics is such an incredibly time-consuming process, most businesses have no time for it. Reimage the machine and get back to work. It's a shame.

    • Those "businesses" tend to be exploited again after reimage, which is logical, because the bug wasn't fixed.

      I've seen it happen a lots of times, and in the end.. they are forced to do some action, besides 'reimaging'.

    • Also, "businesses" don't need to have time for fixing the issue.

      Businesses hire people to do that for them and if the people who where hired don't do the job, then businesses sack them, and hire someone else.

      • Re:time (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @02:42PM (#27589781) Homepage

        Security engineer: "Our network logs show there is some sort of rootkit or bot on labAD01, boss."

        Boss geekymachoman: "Find out how it got on there and what it did."

        Security engineer: "OK, should take about three days to do a full forensic analysis."

        Boss geekymachoman: "What? We can't delay all the other projects by three days! I hired you to do a job! Do it instantly or I will sack you! And I want a pony."

        Yeah... it sure would be great working with you, buddy!

        • 1. Three days ? From where did you get that info ? Bullshit.

          2. If you can't 'clean' the server in acceptable time period, you then find out (which can be done in max few hours) what the rootkit/exploit does, and block it (or block everything except the business stuff, either firewall or various ACL systems). And/or move the production stuff on different server, from the one affected, and tighten the security of it to the max.
          In the mean time you diagnose the real problem on that already cracked server.

          The p

          • It seems you do not know what "forensics" means. Hint: it's the only way you can be sure what the rootkit did to your system. Look it up. I think you would do best to leave security to the security professionals, machoman. There's nothing wrong with that. It's actually good to be able to recognize your own limitations.

            • When you find out what the exploit/rootkit/whatever do, then you know what it "did to you".

              If you need days to do that, and you don't have any backups systems to move prod stuff to, then it would be good for you too, to start recognizing your limitations, and start looking for a new job.

              I'm of course talking about server platforms, not some stupid workstations running windows xp sp1, which is falling apart of malware infestation.

              Also, reimaging is ok, as long as you have protected your system, so the next t

              • Re:time (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @10:26AM (#27598255) Homepage

                It is horribly obvious you have never even attempted a forensic analysis of an infected machine. Stop embarrassing yourself. Reimaging is NOT a forensic analysis. Reimaging does not take three days. Analysis takes three days AT MINIMUM for something like a rootkit.

                I am a security engineer in a large, international software company with multiple datacenters. You are a punk kid talking out his rear. You're not fooling anyone.

                • by illtud (115152)

                  I agree 100% with what you said, I just wanted to say

                  You are a punk kid talking out his rear

                  was funny coming from Lord Ender.

                  OK, well it was when I started typing this...

          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Point number 2: REALLY? I get moving production onto another server if you have clean backups. But saying you're going to clean up a hacked system is unprofessional madness for anything but the lowest common denominator of virus--and even then, you're basically flipping a coin and hoping that it wasn't just used as a vector for something bigger and nastier--hiding in the obvious. You ever heard of t0rn--a rootkit that had another rootkit hidden in it... not that anyone knew for a few years.

            Many of the

  • I would really like to hear from someone who has experience in that domain comment or review these books, we always have these nobodies that we can't really do a search on, but if you had someone that worked at the NSA and said "yep this is a great book about cryptology" or
    someone at the FBI saying "yep this book is the one that is effective in helping someone
    create the perfect background search" etc.

    For once, just....for once. :(

  • by archangel9 (1499897) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @02:32PM (#27589643)
    Rootkit: The New Scientology. Our Kool-Aid isn't just tasty, it's ubicwi, ubitiquis, ubitquit... it's everywhere.
  • Scary (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jweller13 (1148823)
    I just returned from a week long Information Security convention for my government agency. It was eye opening how vulnerable supposedly "secure" systems are. Especially after the Gartner, and NIST speakers finished their presentation. It seems that locking up your computer in a lead lined box and burying it in a hole 12 feet deep is about what you need to do, lol. They also talked about FRID and how very vulnerable, for example, the new passports -- which have much of your private info on them -- with t

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