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Over the last few months, Duo Labs has been working on a project researching the difference in security support provided by vendors to the firmware in their systems as compared to the software.
The term covers a wide range of things in a modern system, so for the sake of this study, we focused on looking at the security support given to EFI firmware.
Attacks against EFI have so far been part of the toolkit used by sophisticated adversaries who have specific high value targets in their sights.
Such adversaries are often spoken about in the same breath as .
Note that we didn’t say , there are variety of scenarios we could construct where your system’s vulnerability to an EFI security issue could be used against a home user, such as when crossing the border into or out of a country.
However for situations, the risk is currently not severe.
If you can patch and get your EFI firmware into a more secure state, we absolutely encourage you to do so, but if that is not possible, then continuing to use your current system will, in all likelihood, not result in a severe increase in risk due to the very nature of EFI attacks themselves.Our research focused on the Apple Mac ecosystem as Apple is in a somewhat unique position of controlling the full stack from hardware, through firmware, OS, and all the way up to application software and can be considered widely deployed.This single stakeholder ecosystem made the job of gathering and analyzing relevant data for our research quite a bit simpler, however, we are of the belief that the main issues we have discovered are generally relevant across all vendors tasked with securing EFI firmware and are not solely Apple.In a modern system, the EFI environment holds particular fascination for security researchers and attackers due to the level of privilege it affords if compromise is successful.
EFI is often talked about as operating at privilege level ring -2 (a great quick explanation of protection rings below 0 is here), which indicates it is operating at a lower level than both the OS (ring 0) and hypervisors (ring -1).Ultimately, you are the only one who can make the determination of your threat model and what level of risk you’re prepared to accept.