Hardware Trojans in Cybersecurity

As digital guardians, our vigilance against cyber threats never ceases. Yet, beneath the familiar layers of software protection lies a lesser-known, more insidious peril—Hardware Trojans in cybersecurity.

These covert assailants lurk within the very circuitry we trust, poised to compromise our systems and steal sensitive information.

As we venture deeper into this technological quagmire, understanding and countering these hidden threats becomes paramount. Hardware trojans pose a significant risk to corporate and government infrastructure and operations.

In this article, we examine a significant and widespread hardware trojan threat caused by compromised network cards. We evaluate the potential risks posed by hardware trojans through practical implementation testing.

Our hardware trojan can be controlled remotely, resulting in a degradation of corporate network services.

The trojan is activated from an external source, managing to bypass various security measures such as data encryption, firewall traffic inspection, software security, and the operating system.

The Silent Killers: Hardware Trojans Defined

What Are Hardware Trojans?

Hardware Trojans are modifications stealthily embedded into a device’s circuitry, designed to disrupt operations, steal data, or cause physical damage.

Often invisible to standard detection methods, these Trojans represent a cunning form of cyber assault. In recent decades, Integrated Circuits (ICs) have grown ubiquitous in automating, regulating, monitoring, and computing daily life.

Trusting integrated circuits to perform their intended responsibilities has long been a security challenge and has garnered academic interest.

Modern electronic systems depend on ICs to provide essential information to finance, military, industry, and transportation. Without integrated circuits, systems may malfunction or be vulnerable to security breaches.

Hardware Trojans are malicious circuit or design changes that cause device malfunction. It seems like a hardware backdoor an attacker might use to target a machine. Hardware Trojans may damage integrated circuits, steal data, or conduct a DoS attack.

IC specification, design, verification, and manufacturing might include hardware Trojan insertion. ICs may be hacked by hardware Trojans after production.

Managing the IC design life cycle is expensive; thus, many businesses divide design and manufacturing. They commonly outsource contract design and employ third-party EDA tools and IP cores.

Australia cannot create and manufacture large ASIC designs, especially for defence.

What is needed is electronics industry globalization to improve our military and commercial capabilities. Even with Hardware Trojans, our approach should assure IC dependability and COTS electrical product and IC security.

Hardware Trojans must be understood to design effective electronics development and deployment defences. The detection of hardware Trojans in compromised workstations has been studied for five years.

Cyber CERP Hardware Trojan material has been studied extensively. This research examines hardware Trojan threats, command, prevention, detection, and countermeasures.

Note that there are no generally effective ways to eliminate Hardware Trojans or make a system work with them.

How Hardware Trojans Operate

Unlike typical malware, Hardware Trojans do not need to hack into a system—they are part of it.

These Trojans can activate under specific conditions, making them time bombs waiting to detonate.

Trojan Malware

A Trojan Horse or just known as Trojan, is a type of malware that disguises itself as legitimate software.

Once inside the network, malicious individuals can export files, manipulate data, delete files, and make other unauthorized changes to the device’s contents.

The cautionary knell is that one must be very cautious when downloading games, tools, applications, and software fixes as they may contain Trojans.

Malicious attacks frequently employ tactics such as social engineering, spoofing, and phishing to manipulate users into taking action.

Trojan: Virus or Malware?

Trojans are often mislabelled as Trojan viruses or Trojan horse viruses. Trojan malware cannot replicate or execute itself. User activity should have a clear purpose.

Similar to other types of malwares, Trojans can corrupt files, redirect internet traffic, monitor user activities, steal sensitive data, or create hidden access points.

Malicious software can delete, restrict, alter, expose, or duplicate information to sell it for ransom or on the dark web.

A Few Trojan Malware Types

Cybercriminals use Trojans often and effectively. We look at 10 Trojans and how they work:

Exploit Trojans: These Trojans exploit software flaws to obtain system access. Infected machines are targeted by downloader Trojans, which install new malicious programs.

Ransom Trojan: Like ransomware, this Trojan extorts users to restore an infected device and its data.

Backdoor Trojan: The attacker sets up network access points using malware.

DDoS attack Trojan: Backdoor Trojans may be installed on several machines to build a botnet, or zombie network, for DDoS attacks.

This attack uses compromised devices to access wireless routers and divert or flood traffic.

Fake AV Trojan: This Trojan masquerades as antivirus software and demands payment to identify and remove dangers.

This software’s reported flaws are generally false, like the product itself.

Rootkit Trojan: This application hides or obscures an item on an infected computer or device to operate unnoticed longer.

SMS Trojan: Mobile device Trojan virus may transmit and intercept text messages.

SMS texts to premium-rate lines might earn cash.

Banking or Trojan-Banker: These Trojan attacks bank accounts.

It steals bank accounts, credit cards, and other electronic payment data.

Trojan Game Thief: This software goes after internet gamers’ login credentials.

Trojan Malware Examples

Trojans are always developing, therefore reviewing prior Trojan Attacks might help avoid breaches or reduce damage.

Here Are Some Examples:

NIGHT SPIDER’s Zloader: Zloader disguised itself as Zoom, Atera, NetSupport, Brave Browser, JavaPlugin, and TeamViewer installers but included malicious scripts and payloads to automatically reconnaissance and download the trojan.

Threat hunters at CrowdStrike noticed the threat actor’s efforts to hide and soon found evidence of a campaign.

QakBot: An eCrime banking trojan, QakBot may move laterally across a network by brute-forcing network shares and Active Directory user group accounts or exploiting server message block (SMB) mechanisms.

CrowdStrike Falcon® identifies VBScript execution and stops QakBot’s execution chain, despite its anti-analysis and evasive capabilities.

Andromeda: This modular trojan downloaded banking Trojans and other infections.

It commonly comes with a rootkit, HTML form grabber, keylogger, and SOCKS proxy plugins. CrowdStrike utilized PowerShell via Real-time Response to eradicate the infection without escalating or formatting the disk, without affecting user activities

Stay connected for our forthcoming articles that will delve into several such issues, in sequence.

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