Sunday, May 22, 2022

Your SSD might be subjected to Over-provisioning malware

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Researchers in Korea discovered a weakness in SSDs that allows the malware to infect an SSD’s empty over-provisioning partition directly. This makes the malware practically immune to security countermeasures, according to BleepingComputer.

Over-provisioning is a function found in all current SSDs that extends the SSD’s built-in NAND storage life and improves its performance. Overprovisioning results in a lot of vacant storage space. However, it allows the SSD to ensure that data is spread evenly across all NAND cells by shuffling data to the over-provisioning pool when needed.

While the operating system — and hence anti-virus solutions — are intended to be unable to reach this region, this new malware can infiltrate it and utilize it as a base of operations. Two attacks based on the over-provisioned space were designed by Korean academics at Korea University in Seoul. The first shows a vulnerability in the SSD that targets invalid data (data that has been erased in the OS but not physically cleaned).

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To get access to more potentially sensitive data, the attacker can increase the size of the over-provisioned data pool to provide the operating system with more space. As a result, when a user tries to erase more data from the SSD, the excess data stays physically intact.

To tackle the first assault scenario, the researchers recommend designing a pseudo-erase method that physically deletes data on an SSD without harming real-world performance.

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To fight the second assault type, it is advised that a new monitoring system be implemented that can closely monitor the over-provisioned size of the SSDs in real-time. Furthermore, unauthorized access to SSD management tools that can change over-provisioned sizes should be protected by more robust security mechanisms.

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Thankfully, these techniques were devised by researchers rather than being found as a result of a real-world attack. However, an attack like this might very well occur, thus SSD makers should begin correcting these security flaws as soon as possible before someone exploits them.

also read:

Intel surprises all by re-designing the stock cooler of its Alder Lake CPUs

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Nivedita Bangari
Nivedita Bangari
I am a software engineer by profession and technology is my love, learning and playing with new technologies is my passion.

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