Security experts have found a new attack to steal passwords and encryption keys, as well as other sensitive information stored on computers, even those with full disk encryption.
The attack is a new variant of a traditional Cold Boot Attack, which is used since 2008 and enables attackers to steal information that shortly remains in the RAM after the computer is powered off.
In order to make the cold boot attacks less effective, most modern devices come with a feature, created by the Trusted Computing Group (TCG), that overwrites the contents of the RAM when the device is powered on again, preventing the data from being read. Now, researchers from Finnish security company F-Secure figured out a new way to compromise this security measure by physically manipulating the motherboard firmwares, potentially allowing attackers to recover sensitive data stored in the RAM after a cold reboot.
“Cold boot attacks are a known method of obtaining encryption keys from devices. But the reality is that attackers can get their hands on all kinds of information using these attacks. Passwords, credentials to corporate networks, and any data stored on the machine are at risk,” the F-Secure warns in a blog post.
“It’s not exactly easy to do, but it is not a hard enough issue to find and exploit for us to ignore the probability that some attackers have already figured this out.” F-Secure Security consultant Olle Segerdahl stated.
“It’s not exactly the kind of thing that attackers looking for easy targets will use. But it is the kind of thing that attackers looking for bigger phish, like a bank or large enterprise, will know how to use.”
Like the old cold boot attack, the new one also requires physical access to the device as well as right equipment to recover remaining data in the memory.