Kaspersky report sparks war of words

Kaspersky report sparks war of words

Claims millions of users running anti-theft software risk being hijacked by hackers

A stoush has erupted between Kaspersky Labs and Absolute software over claims millions of Absolute Computrace users are at risk of being hacked.

Absolute Software has described a Kaspersky Labs report released last week as "flawed" and refuted its claims.

The report claimed users running anti-theft software were at risk of being hijacked by cyber-attackers.

It highlights that the weak implementation of anti-theft software marketed by Absolute Software can turn a useful defensive utility into a powerful instrument for cyber attackers.

The focus of the research was the Absolute Computrace agent that resides in the firmware, or PC ROM BIOS, of modern laptops and desktops.

The reason for the research project was the discovery of the Computrace agent running on several private computers of Kaspersky Labs.

However, Absolute Software chief technical officer, Phil Gardner, said Kaspersky’s analysis was ‘flawed’ and rejected its conclusions.

“Kaspersky alleges that the report confirms and demonstrates how Absolute Computrace can be used as a ‘powerful utility for cyber attackers," he said.

“They also assert that this will allow attackers to fully access millions of users’ computers.

“Absolute considers Kaspersky’s analysis flawed.”

A spokesperson for Absolute Software said the company had not been contracted by Kaspersky in order to validate research and provide technical insight.

“We received no response from Kaspersky Lab until the press release and report were published,” a spokeperson said.

“Since we did not have the benefit of reviewing the report until the day it was published, and because we have no insight to the veracity of the technical testing Kaspersky apparently undertook, our response is limited to the narrative within the report.”

However, a spokesman for Kaspersky told ARN an official email was sent to Absolute Computrace on February 3, with a draft version of the research paper attached.

No response was received, according to the spokesman.

"We decided to undertake full research on this topic after discovering several privately owned laptops of Kaspersky Lab security researchers had the Computrace agent running without prior authorisation,” he said.

“The analysed laptops were purchased in 2012 in brand new condition and with the top configurations available on the market.

“It quickly became alarming when our reverse engineering revealed weak implementation of the Computrace agent.

The spokesman said the company found signs of unauthorised activations on its hardware.

“Our research paper shows that the Computrace agent compiled in 2012 still uses unencrypted channels,” he said.

“Due to this fact, we were able to make a live demo of Computrace hijacking at the SAS2014 conference.

“We sent an official email to Absolute Computrace is on February 3 with a draft version of the research paper, but didn’t get any reply.

“Although Absolute Computrace is a legitimate software, due to security weaknesses it can be used not as a protection tool, but as an instrument for cyber attacks.

“As a security company we believe it’s our job to warn people about potential serious risks hidden in Absolute Computrace."

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Tags Absolute ComputraceKasperky Labs


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