11 Nov 2010

New malware might target specific CPUs

Traditionally, malware has targeted Microsoft’s Windows OS, making users of rivals, such as Linux and Mac’s OS X safer from infection. However, researchers say those days may soon be in the past.

Researchers from an internet security firm in Paris recently demonstrated how malware could be designed to target computer processors and not just vulnerabilities within an operating system.

According to the Inquirer, the techniques for infiltrating an OS and a CPU are fundamentally the same. Both require finding flaws in the systems and exploiting them. Processor architectures can be identified by figuring how a CPU calculates arithmetic and encodes numbers.

While researchers say this technique is not yet refined enough to appease cyber criminals, they say the method could be used to to enable “far more precise and targeted attacks.” More complex tests are required to find the threats for specific processor models, but the ability to target just a family of processors is a significant threat, researchers say.

Currently, operating systems deal with malware with patches and antivirus software. There are currently no known malware strains in the wild that target processors.