A vulnerability has been discovered in Apple MacBooks that would allow viruses to be created that are almost impossible to remove. It’s called Thunderstrike.
So, what is the Thunderstrike vulnerability?
The vulnerability is in the Boot ROM of the MacBook - this is the part that controls how the laptop switches on. The Boot ROM isn’t located on the hard drive so it’s not scanned by anti-virus software or affected by actions such as a system restore or wiping the hard drive.
This means that if a virus was written into the Boot ROM it would be almost undetectable and virtually impossible to remove. Even if you deleted everything on your computer, this still wouldn’t remove a virus on the Boot ROM.
How could a virus get onto my Boot ROM?
Luckily, a virus can’t get to your MacBook’s Boot ROM simply by opening a dodgy email or accidentally downloading malicious software. To infect the Boot ROM with a virus someone either needs to physically unscrew your laptop and gain access to the Boot ROM, or they need to attach an infected device to your laptop using the Thunderbolt port – this last method is why it was given the name Thunderstrike.
What can I do to protect myself?
The most likely way your MacBook’s Boot ROM will get a virus is by plugging an infected device into your laptops thunderbolt port. To avoid this happening, you should always be extremely careful with what you choose to plug into your laptop. If it’s a device that’s unknown to you, it’s best to not to use it!
Remember – there are thousands of other viruses that could easily get onto your computer or laptop through an infected device.
You should also be very cautious where you get your laptop repaired. Only ever use a certified IT company and not just someone who you know from the pub – even if they seem to know a decent amount about computers. If they are not experts, they could be doing more harm than good.
Should I be concerned about my PC getting the virus?
The vulnerability has only been found in Apple laptops, however there are plenty of other cyber threats that you need to protect your PC from. Remember, always keep you anti-virus software up-to-date and be careful not to plug in unknown devices.
So, what is Apple doing about the Boot ROM vulnerability?
We understand that Apple is working on a firmware update however there is no published information confirming this. Apple have a report on this vulnerability and you can check the National Vulnerability Database to hear about any updates.
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Posted 22nd January 2015