Lab rats at Microsoft Research and the University of Michigan have teamed up to create prototypes for virtual machine-based rootkits that significantly push the envelope for hiding malware and that can maintain control of a target operating system.
The proof-of-concept rootkit, called SubVirt, exploits known security flaws and drops a VMM (virtual machine monitor) underneath a Windows or Linux installation.
Once the target operating system is hoisted into a virtual machine, the rootkit becomes impossible to detect because its state cannot be accessed by security software running in the target system, according to documentation seen by eWEEK.
The prototype, which will be presented at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy later in 2006, is the brainchild of Microsoft’s Cybersecurity and Systems Management Research Group, the Redmond, Wash., unit responsible for the Strider GhostBuster anti-rootkit scanner and the Strider HoneyMonkey exploit detection patrol.
Today, anti-rootkit clean-up tools compare registry and file system API discrepancies to check for the presence of user-mode or kernel-mode rootkits, but this tactic is useless if the rootkit stores malware in a place that cannot be scanned.