Attackers constantly explore ways to camouflage illicit activities against computer platforms. Stealthy attacks are required in industrial espionage and also by criminals stealing banking credentials. Modern computers contain dedicated hardware such as network and graphics cards. Such devices implement independent execution environments but have direct memory access (DMA) to the host runtime memory. In this work we introduce DMA malware, i.e., malware executed on dedicated hardware to launch stealthy attacks against the host using DMA. DMA malware goes beyond the capability to control DMA hardware. We implemented DAGGER, a keylogger that attacks Linux and Windows platforms. Our evaluation confirms that DMA malware can efficiently attack kernel structures even if memory address randomization is in place. DMA malware is stealthy to a point where the host cannot detect its presense. We evaluate and discuss possible countermeasures and the (in)effectiveness of hardware extensions such as input/output memory management units.


Dedicated Hardware Direct Memory Access I/OMMU Keylogger Malware Manageability Engine Rootkit Stealth vPro x86 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Stewin
    • 1
  • Iurii Bystrov
    • 1
  1. 1.Security in TelecommunicationsTechnische Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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