European agreement for Absolute and Lenovo

The Canadian ISV/IHV Absolute Software Corporation is working with the European branch of the Chinese OEM Lenovo, to apply CompuTrace — now called Absolute(R) — silicon/firmware-level tracking technology within Europe. Excerpt of press release:

Absolute Collaborates with Lenovo EMEA to Introduce European Factory Activation

Absolute Software Corporation, the industry standard for persistent endpoint security and data risk management solutions, today announced the Company has entered into an agreement with Lenovo EMEA to introduce European factory activation of Absolute Data & Device Security (DDS) (formerly Absolute Computrace). Under this agreement, Lenovo EMEA will incorporate the automated deployment of Absolute DDS, (which will trigger the activation of Persistence technology by Absolute) through Lenovo’s Imaging Technology Center for its European customers. As part of this factory image, customers can opt to load and activate Absolute DDS onto all of their Lenovo devices before shipment.

“Many of our enterprise customers want their Lenovo devices to be protected while in transit. By installing Absolute DDS and activating Persistence technology, our customers will be able to secure these endpoints before they leave the factory,” said Stefan Larsen, EMEA business development manager, Lenovo. “This agreement also allows our customers to reduce the resources spent on configuring and imaging devices, without compromising best-in-class security.”

“Lenovo’s Imaging Technology Center delivers a customized, out-of-the-box experience for its enterprise customers,” said Geoff Haydon, chief executive officer, Absolute. “We are excited to expand our participation in this program to Lenovo customers in Europe. This agreement represents a tremendous opportunity for us to strengthen our position in the region.”

More information:

So,  some of Lenovo’s enterprise customers are concerned about new computers being stolen or otherwise manipulated before they leave the factory? Who can attack OEM systems at this point in the system? Is this just an issue for Lenovo, or do other OEM’s enterprise customers also have this kind of concern? How does this new Absolute/Lenovo change impact attacker’s ability to attack system before the hardware comes to Europe and Persistence technology gets activated?

I wish OEMs would give me the OPTION to have this feature, not presume all of their systems are sold to enterprises. I wish someone would maintain a list of modern CompuTrace-free systems, for non-enterprise citizens who don’t want it installed, as it is useless, since CompuTrace is only available to enterprises. It seems that their compatibility lists include nearly all modern OEM systems. Hmm, does Purism or Novena have it? Did the old Thinkpads — that are being refurbished with Libreboot and resold by 2 companies– have it?

TrustZone in AMD Pro APUs

Bruno Ferreira has a story in TechReport on TrustZone support in new AMD Pro APUs:

AMD goes Pro with TrustZone-enabled APUs

AMD has released a Pro family of APUs and management tools targeted at business environments. These APUs hail from the Godavari and Carrizo families, and come in both mobile and desktop flavors. According to AMD, its new Pro A12 mobile APU is “the first [HSA-compliant] commercial processor in the industry.” It’s also the first APU with support for ARM’s TrustZone, for system-wide separation of software execution environments. The mobile Pro A12 packs in four CPU cores with a 3.4 GHz Turbo clock, alongside an R7-series GPU with 512 compute units clocked at 800 MHz. The inclusion of an HEVC decoder is also a nice bonus. A similar part exists in the Pro-series desktop APU lineup, with four cores and Turbo speeds of 4.1 GHz. Along with the hardware, AMD has released its companion Pro Control Center software, which offers centralized system management features like system health monitoring, traffic shaping, and USB port blocking. If this whole thing sounds similar to Intel’s vPro, you’re probably right. Still, AMD’s take has a few unique features. AMD already has a few partners on board. HP is using Pro APUs in  its “AMD Elite” family of products, and Lenovo is building around these chips with its M79 Tower. More AMD Pro products should be coming soon.

Full story:

WPBT attacks from the past: Alex at SyScan12

The recent Lenovo LSE blunder made most of the world aware of Windows WBPT ACPI table and how the firmware injects an executable into the OS, a feature of Windows that all OEMs are likely using. While the media is wondering about WBPT and why it’s not prominently displayed on many web sites, Xeno of LegbaCore pointed out that Alex Ionescu gave a talk at SyScan 2012 on this specific topic:

ACPI 5.0 Rootkit Attacks Againts Windows 8
Alex Ionescu
This talk will disclose certain new features of the ACPI 5.0 Specification which is now public and was primarily designed to support ACPI on ARM Embedded SoCs for the upcoming release of Windows 8. Some of these new features have important security considerations which have not been traditionally monitored by security products and/or users, specifically in the areas of covert code execution at Ring 0 privileges.

Thanks for reminding us, Xeno!

What’s the next built-in ACPI attack?

[UPDATE: just confirmed that’s links page had the WPBT link since 2011. After posting below article, I wondered if the webmaster updated their links page in the last few days…)

While the media is currently blaming Lenovo for sloppy Windows QA, they’re also waking up to the reality that Windows has been using for the last few years. Initial Ars Technica and YCombinator posts on the topic quoted the abstract to the spec on a web page that was no longer available, so it sounds conspiratorial.  But the doc has been online since 2011. Besides links, the web site maintains a good set of links, including a pointer to the WPBT spec, and other ACPI-related table specs.

The ACPI specs — at least some of them? — are maintained by the UEFI Forum. The UEFI Forum’s web site does NOT have a link to the WPBT spec.

I’ll bet there’re a few other existing ‘unknown’ ACPI features hidden on the links page that’ll be ‘discovered’ in the next few months, due to another sloppy OEM or sharp security researcher… From above links URL, here’ s a partial list (I omitted multiple entries which’re specs for other hardware, and some of those might also include ACPI tables) of ACPI tables to attack:

Core System Resources Table, CSRT
Debug Port Table, DBGP
Debug Port Table 2, DBG2
DMA Remapping Table, DMAR
IA-PC High Precision Event Timer Table, HPET
I/O Virtualization Reporting Structure, IVRS
iSCSI Boot Firmware Table, IBFT
Management Controller Host Interface Table, MCHI
Microsoft Software Licensing Tables, MSDM, SLIC
Multiprocessor Startup for ARM Platforms
Serial Port Console Redirection Table, SPCR
Server Platform Management Interface Table, SPMI
Simple Boot Flag Table, BOOT
Smart Battery System Components and SMBus Spec
Trusted Platform Module 2 Table, TPM2
Trusted Computing Platform Alliance Capabilities Table, TCPA
Watchdog Action Table, WDAT
Watchdog Timer Resource Table, WDRT
Windows ACPI Emulated Devices Table, WAET
Windows Platform Binary Table, WPBT

Quoting Wikipedia on ACPI security risks:

“Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth has likened ACPI to Trojan horses. He has described proprietary firmware (ACPI-related or any other firmware) as a security risk, saying that “firmware on your device is the NSA’s best friend” and calling firmware (ACPI or non-ACPI) “a Trojan horse of monumental proportions”. He has pointed out that low quality, closed source firmware is a major threat to system security: “Your biggest mistake is to assume that the NSA is the only institution abusing this position of trust — in fact, it’s reasonable to assume that all firmware is a cesspool of insecurity, courtesy of incompetence of the highest degree from manufacturers, and competence of the highest degree from a very wide range of such agencies”. As a solution to this problem, he has called for declarative firmware (ACPI or non-ACPI). Firmware should be open-source so that the code can be checked and verified. Firmware should be declarative, meaning that it should describe “hardware linkage and dependencies” and should not include executable code.”

Vendors need to be disclosing a LOT MORE information about what they’ve included in their firmware, now that people are aware of this, thanks to Lenovo. It is easy to fix OEM’s mistakes at OS level, by reinstalling an open source OS, or installing vanilla Windows and then getting the drivers from the OEM/IHVs. But you can’t update your system’s firmware, and ACPI is the new dumping ground for OEM bloat. Well, not new, just newly-realized by some of us. I want a system with absolute minimail ACPI table bloat, and I want to KNOW what tables are shipped on the firmware. Linux OEMs: don’t ship COTS firmware that has Windows-centric ACPI blobs in them. If you look on #UEFI on G+ and Twitter, you’ll find more and more people demanding Open Hardware and fully-open source firmware, which is refreshing. 🙂

new resource: Broken UEFI Implementations wiki

Watch this site to grow over time (and contribute to it, if you can help):

Apple, Lenovo, GIGABYTE: note that there’s some stuff about your products in the initial database.

As mentioned earlier:

Steve McIntyre of the Debian project is working with other open source OS developers to maintain a list of broken UEFI implementations, to help OS vendors:

I’ve been talking to a number of other UEFI developers lately, and we’ve agreed to start a cross-distro resource to help here – a list of known-broken UEFI implementations so that we can share our experiences. The place for this in in the OSDev wiki at We’re going to be adding new information here as we find it. If you’ve got a particular UEFI horror story on your own broken system, then please either add details there or let me know and I’ll try to do it for you.

See Steve’s blog post for more information:


US-CERT: Lenovo Service Engine (LSE) BIOS Vulnerability

Today US-CERT issued a warning about Lenovo’s LSE:

Lenovo Service Engine (LSE) BIOS Vulnerability

Certain Lenovo personal computers contain a vulnerability in LSE (a Lenovo BIOS feature). Exploitation of this vulnerability may allow a remote attacker to take control of an affected system. Users and administrators are encouraged to review the Lenovo Security Advisories for notebooks and desktops and apply the necessary updates and mitigations.


Lenovo Service Engine

A bit more on this topic from yesterday:
Lenovo has a response:

Lenovo Statement on Lenovo Service Engine (LSE) BIOS

There are more news agencies reporting on this story:

Yuck, is each OS vendor using UEFI as a crutch? I wish the Linux Foundation (or some other group) has advise for chip vendors, IBVs, IHVs, and pre-OS ISVs on how to use Linux properly on UEFI systems. It should require that this Windows-centric BIOS code to NOT be present on a Linux system. What other OS-specific crud is in my closed-source BIOS?!

Lenovo LSE, WPBT and wpbbin.exe

UPDATE: See-also:

An interesting find, potentialy scary if misused. See the Ars Technical and YCombinator stories for discovery. What is Windows’ ‘wpbbin.exe’, and how/when is it used? There’s one reference to it on in a DOC related to WPBT, the Windows Platform Binary Table. From one document no longer on the Microsoft web site (saved in Google cache, found on the Ars article):

A rich set of tools exist to aid Windows provisioning, ranging from driver injection and offline registry management to sysprep imaging tools.  However, there is a small set of software where the tools are not enough.  The software is absolutely critical for the execution of Windows but for one reason or another, the vendor is unable to distribute the software to every provisioning entity.  This paper describes a mechanism for a platform, via the boot firmware, to publish a binary to Windows for execution.  The mechanism leverages a boot firmware component to publish a binary in physical memory described to Windows using a fixed ACPI table. The information provided here was originally published in conjunction with the availability of Windows 8. The guidance and requirements to use WPBT functionality has been updated for the Windows 10 timeframe.

Found while researching the above: Lenovo has security updates for LSE:

LEN 2015-077: Lenovo Service Engine (LSE) BIOS for Desktop
LEN-2015-020: Lenovo Service Engine (LSE) BIOS for Notebook

Lenovo Security Advisory: LEN-2015-020
Potential Impact: Privilege Escalation
Severity: High
Summary: Vulnerabilities have been identified in the Lenovo Service Engine (LSE). Lenovo has released a BIOS update to disable Lenovo Service Engine and a utility to remove services and files left on the system for systems running Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10. See below for a full list of notebook systems with LSE installed.

DMTF Redfish 1.0 released

Redfish, an IPMI replacement, has shipped the first release of their spec. Quoting the press release:

DMTF Helps Enable Multi-Vendor Data Center Management with New Redfish 1.0 Standard

DMTF has announced the release of  Redfish 1.0, a standard for data center and systems management that delivers improved performance, functionality, scalability and security. Designed to meet the expectations of end users for simple and interoperable management of modern scalable platform hardware, Redfish takes advantage of widely-used technologies to speed implementation and help system administrators be more effective. Redfish is developed by the DMTF’s Scalable Platforms Management Forum (SPMF), which is led by Broadcom, Dell, Emerson, HP, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Supermicro and VMware with additional support from AMI, Oracle, Fujitsu, Huawei, Mellanox and Seagate. The release of the Redfish 1.0 standard by the DMTF demonstrates the broad industry support of the full organization.

Don’t forget to grab the Redfish “Mockup” as well as the specs and schema.

UEFI 2.5 has a JSON API to enable accessing Redfish. HP was first vendor with systems that supported UEFI 2.5’s new HTTP Boot, a PXE replacement.  Intel checked in HTTP Boot support into TianoCore, so it’s just a matter of time until other vendors have similar products. JSON-based Redfish and HTTP-based booting makes UEFI much more of a “web app”, w/r/t security research, and the need for system administrators to more closely examine how firmware is updated on their systems, to best protect them.