Researchers have created a worm that completely bypasses your Macs operating system and, instead, infects its BIOS — the low-level software that boots your computer for the first time and launches its operating system — and spreads without your Mac ever being connected to the internet at all.
Trammel Hudson, a security engineer at investment management firm Two Sigma and Xeno Kovah, co-founder of a security training firm called LegbaCore, who developed the worm told Wired that it exposes a potential security flaw in Apple’s computing devices. The two researchers will present their findings at the Black Hat and Def Con security conferences in Las Vegas later this week.
Despite the common wisdom that Macs are more secure than PCs, Hudson and Kovah say that this isn’t true. Their proof-of-concept allows the worm to spread automatically from MacBook to MacBook without the need for them to be networked. Worse, anti-virus scanners cannot usually scan your computer’s hardware at the BIOS level, which means it’s extremely difficult to detect if your system is infected.
“For most users that’s really a throw-your-machine-away kind of situation. Most people and organisations don’t have the wherewithal to physically open up their machine and electrically reprogram the chip,” Kovah tells Wired.
What can you do to protect yourself? At this point, nothing. Keep in mind that this is a proof-of-concept still and Apple might release a BIOS update for your Mac soon to fix this. That’s the only way this can be fixed.