Absolute Home & Office

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Absolute Home & Office (originally known as CompuTrace, and LoJack for Laptops) is a proprietary laptop theft recovery software (laptop tracking software) with features including the abilities to remotely lock, delete files from, and locate the stolen laptop on a map. The persistent security features are built into the firmware of devices themselves. Additionally, Absolute Home & Office provides additional services of an investigations and recovery team who partners with law enforcement agencies around the world to return protected laptops to their owners.[1][2][3][4] Absolute Software licensed the name LoJack from the vehicle recovery service LoJack in 2005.[5]

Activated Absolute Home & Office periodically phones home to Absolute Software's server to both announce its location and to check to see if the machine has been reported stolen.[6][7] Absolute's persistence module is preinstalled into many BIOS images by most laptop vendors.[8]

Analysis of Absolute Home & Office (LoJack) by Kaspersky Lab shows that in rare cases, the software was preactivated without user authorization. The software agent behaves like a rootkit, reinstalling a small installer agent into the Windows OS at boot time. This installer later downloads the full agent from Absolute's servers via the internet. This installer is vulnerable to certain local attacks,[8][9] and attacks from hackers who can control network communications of the victim.[10]

Functionality[edit]

Once installed, the Absolute Home & Office agent activates "absolute persistence" by making an initial call to the "Monitoring Center".[10] The software may be updated by modules, downloaded from a command server.[10] Subsequent contact occurs daily, checking to ensure the agent remains installed and provides detailed data such as location, user, software, and hardware.

If the device is stolen the owner first contacts the police to file a report, then contacts Absolute. The next time the protected device connects to the internet it silently switches to theft mode and accelerates Monitoring Center communication. The Investigations and Recovery team forensically mines the computer using key captures, registry and file scanning, geolocation, and other investigative techniques. The team works with local law enforcement to recover the protected device, and provides police with evidence to pursue criminal charges. In the event of theft, a user can log into their online account to remotely lock the computer or delete sensitive files to avoid identity theft.[11]

Absolute Home & Office comes preinstalled in some Lenovo, HP, Dell, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Asus machines.[12] Apple, unlike some other PC manufacturers, does not allow the software to be installed in the BIOS.[13] Absolute Home & Office can be installed on Apple computers, but it will be stored on the hard drive instead of the BIOS. If the hard drive is replaced or reformatted, the Absolute Home & Office software will be lost.

The BIOS service is disabled by default and can be enabled by purchasing a license for Absolute Home & Office; upon being enabled, the BIOS will copy a downloader agent named rpcnetp.exe from the BIOS flash ROM to the System32 folder on Windows systems. On some Toshiba laptops, rpcnetp.exe is factory-preinstalled by Toshiba on the unit's hard drive. In turn, rpcnetp.exe will download the full agent software and install the rpcnet.exe windows service. From then on, rpcnet.exe will phone home to Absolute Software servers once a day, querying for a possible theft report, and transmitting the results of a system scan, IP address, user- and machine names and location data, which it obtains either by tapping the GPS data stream on machines equipped with GPS hardware, or by triangulating available WLAN access points in the vicinity, by providing WLAN IDs and signal strengths so Absolute Software servers can geolocate the device using the Mexens Technology data base.[citation needed] If Absolute receives a theft report, the service can be remotely commanded to phone home every 15 minutes, install additional 3rd vendor software, such as a key logger or a forensic package, make screenshots, etc.

Absolute Home & Office also supports Intel's AT-p anti theft protection scheme: If it is unable to phone home within a configurable time interval it will require a special BIOS password upon the next reboot. It can be configured to shut down the machine's power supply immediately in this case, to force a reboot.

Absolute Persistence Technology[edit]

The persistence module, installed as part of system BIOS/UEFI, detects when the Absolute Home & Office software has been removed. It ensures the software is automatically reinstalled even if the hard drive is replaced, or the firmware is flashed. Absolute Software partners with many original equipment manufacturers to embed this technology in the firmware of computers, netbooks, smartphones, and tablets by Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Motion, Panasonic, Samsung and Toshiba.[14]

In 2011 the software earned a 4.5 / 5 star review from PC Mag.[15] In 2012, macworld.co.uk rated it 5/5 stars.[16] Toptenreviews.com ranked Lojack for Laptops as the #1 laptop tracking software of 2011.[17]

Vulnerabilities[edit]

The Absolute Home & Office client exhibits trojan and rootkit-like behaviour, but some of its modules have been whitelisted by several antivirus vendors.[8][10] Earlier it was detected as TR/Hijack.Explor.1245 or W32/Agent.SW!tr.[citation needed]

At the Black Hat Briefings conference in 2009, researchers showed that the implementation of the Computrace/LoJack agent embedded in the BIOS has vulnerabilities and that this "available control of the anti-theft agent allows a highly dangerous form of BIOS-enhanced rootkit that can bypass all chipset or installation restrictions and reutilize many existing features offered in this kind of software."[18][19][20] Absolute Software rejected the claims made in the research, stating that "the presence of the Computrace module in no way weakens the security of the BIOS". Another independent analyst confirmed the flaws, noted that a malware hijacking attack would be a "highly exotic one", and suggested that the larger concern was that savvy thieves could disable the phone home feature.[21] Later, Core Security Technologies proved the researcher's finding by making publicly available several proofs of concept, videos, and utilities on its webpage.[22]

Local and remote exploitation of first-stage CompuTrace agent, which is used to install the full version after activation or reinstallation of the operating system, was demonstrated at BlackHat USA 2014. This dropper agent is whitelisted by several antivirus vendors and can be used to set up some local attacks, for example to download and install software from different servers.[10] ESET discovered a first attack in the wild with a rootkit called LoJax that infected vulnerable LoJack configurations.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Theft Report White Papers Archived 2013-03-18 at the Wayback Machine. by Absolute Software
  2. ^ David A. Andelman (2005-08-19). "Does LoJack For Laptops Work?". Forbes.
  3. ^ LoJack foils laptop theft, Techworld.com
  4. ^ "LoJack for Laptops Software Review by PCMag.com". 2011-06-21.
  5. ^ "LoJack licenses technology to track stolen computers". Boston Business Journal. June 27, 2005. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  6. ^ Heath, Nick (15 Apr 2008). "Thieves caught out as PCs 'phone home'". zdnet.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  7. ^ "Absolute Software Service Agreement" (PDF). Absolute Software. July 30, 2008. Archived from the original (pdf) on April 11, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-10. Must permit the regular, unimpeded transmission of communications and other data between the Customer Computer and the Monitoring Center in order to enable the Service, including without limitation allow access through your configured firewalls
  8. ^ a b c Absolute Computrace Revisited / SecureList, Vitaly Kamluk, February 12, 2014.
  9. ^ Ortega, Alfredo; Sacco, Anibal (2009-07-24). Deactivate the Rootkit: Attacks on BIOS anti-theft technologies (PDF). Black Hat USA 2009 (PDF). Boston, MA: Core Security Technologies. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
  10. ^ a b c d e Kamlyuk, Vitaliy; Belov, Sergey; Sacco, Anibal (August 2014). Absolute Backdoor Revisited (PDF). Black Hat USA 2014 (PDF). Las Vegas. Retrieved 2015-01-27.
  11. ^ How to keep your laptop from being stolen - by Andrew Nusca for The ToyBox, February 26, 2009
  12. ^ Absolute Software, Partner: BIOS Compatibility, absolute.com
  13. ^ "How can loJack be effective, if i have a password.... someone steals my laptop, they can't login to connect to the internet". Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  14. ^ Absolute CEO Says Growth to Accelerate After Samsung Win / Bloomberg, by Hugo Miller - April 15, 2013
  15. ^ Software Review. by pcmag.com, June 21, 2011
  16. ^ Software Review. by macworld.co.uk, Nov 07, 2012
  17. ^ Software Review. by toptenreviews.com, 2011
  18. ^ Sacco, Anibal; Alfredo Ortéga. "Deactivate the Rootkit". Exploiting Stuff. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
  19. ^ Robertson, Jordan. "Anti-theft software could create security hole". The Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2009-08-08. Retrieved 2009-08-06.
  20. ^ Sacco, Anibal; Alfredo Ortéga. "Deactivate the Rootkit". Black Hat Briefings. Retrieved 2009-08-06.
  21. ^ "Absolute Software downplays BIOS rootkit claims". ZDNet. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  22. ^ Sacco, Anibal; Alfredo Ortéga. "Deactivate the Rootkit". Core Security Technologies. Retrieved 2009-09-08.
  23. ^ LoJax: First UEFI rootkit found in the wild, courtesy of the Sednit group, WeLiveSecurity by ESET, 2018-09-27

External links[edit]