PixieFail UEFI Flaws Expose Millions of Computers to RCE, DoS, and Data Theft


Multiple security vulnerabilities have been disclosed in the TCP/IP network protocol stack of an open-source reference implementation of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) specification used widely in modern computers.

Collectively dubbed PixieFail by Quarkslab, the nine issues reside in the TianoCore EFI Development Kit II (EDK II) and could be exploited to achieve remote code execution, denial-of-service (DoS), DNS cache poisoning, and leakage of sensitive information.

UEFI firmware – which is responsible for booting the operating system – from AMI, Intel, Insyde, and Phoenix Technologies are impacted by the shortcomings.

EDK II incorporates its own TCP/IP stack called NetworkPkg to enable network functionalities available during the initial Preboot eXecution Environment (PXE, pronounced “pixie”) stage, which allows for management tasks in the absence of a running operating system.

In other words, it is a client-server interface to boot a device from its network interface card (NIC) and allows networked computers that are not yet loaded with an operating system to be configured and booted remotely by an administrator.

The code to PXE is included as part of the UEFI firmware on the motherboard or within the NIC firmware read-only memory (ROM).

The issues identified by Quarkslab within the EDKII’s NetworkPkg encompass overflow bugs, out-of-bounds read, infinite loops, and the use of weak pseudorandom number generator (PRNG) that result in DNS and DHCP poisoning attacks, information leakage, denial of service, and data insertion attacks at the IPv4 and IPv6 layer.

The list of flaws is as follows –

“The impact and exploitability of these vulnerabilities depend on the specific firmware build and the default PXE boot configuration,” the CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC) said in an advisory.

“An attacker within the local network (and, in certain scenarios remotely) could exploit these weaknesses to execute remote code, initiate DoS attacks, conduct DNS cache poisoning, or extract sensitive information.”


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