How a Blu-ray disc could install malware on your computer

A video will start playing, but something strange could be happening as well

A pair of vulnerabilities found in hardware and software for playing Blu-ray discs might come in handy for secret snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency.

Stephen Tomkinson of NCC Group, a U.K.-based security consultancy, engineered a Blu-ray disc which detects the type of player the disc is running on and then picks one of two exploits to land malware on a computer. He presented the research at the Securi-Tay conference at Abertay University in Scotland on Friday.

One of the problems is in PowerDVD, an application made by Taiwanese company CyberLink for playing DVDs on Windows computers. The company's applications are often preinstalled on computers from manufacturers including HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Toshiba and ASUS, according to its website.

Blu-ray discs can support rich content like dynamic menus and embedded games, which are built using Blu-ray Disc Java (BD-J), a variation of Java for embedded systems. BD-J uses "xlets," or small applications, for things such as user interfaces.

Xlets are prohibited from accessing a computer's operating system and file system for obvious reasons. But Tomkinson found a flaw in PowerDVD that allowed him to get around the sandbox that xlets can run in and launch a malicious executable.

The second vulnerability lies in some Blu-ray disc player hardware. Tomkinson wrote that he analyzed a "fairly minimal' embedded system running Linux with a command-line BusyBox interface although he did not identify the make or model.

His second attack uses an exploit written by Malcolm Stagg to be able to get root access on a Blu-ray player. From there, he wanted to see if it was possible to trick the system into running a command that would install malware.

He found it was possible to write an xlet that fooled a small client application called "ipcc" running within the localhost into launching a malicious file from the Blu-ray disc.

To refine the attack, Tomkinson figured out a way to detect what kind of system the Blu-ray disc is running on in order to know which exploit to launch. To mask the strange activity, the Blu-ray disc is coded to start playing its content after one of the exploits has run.

Distributing a batch of malicious media has been used in the past to attack specific targets. Last month, Kaspersky Lab wrote about the Equation group, a highly advanced group of attackers suspected to be the NSA that used ingenious ways to deliver malware.

Kaspersky described how some participants of a scientific conference held in Houston later received a CD-ROM of material. The CD contained two zero-day exploits and a rarely-seen malware backdoor nicknamed Doublefantasy.

Tomkinson wrote that NCC Group has contacted "the vendors to resolve these issues with varying degrees of success." CyberLink officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

There are a few defensive precautions users can take. Tomkinson wrote that people can avoid Blu-ray discs that come from unknown sources and also stop discs from running automatically.

If it is possible, users should also turn off the capability that allows Blu-ray players to connect to the Internet or block it from connecting to a network, he wrote.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securityNCC GroupExploits / vulnerabilities

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?