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BIOS Hacks

by Brent Kirkpatrick

(Date Published: .)

A BIOS hack could render your computer or phone unrecoverable.

A BIOS hack is an exploit that "flashes" or modifies the BIOS of an computer. EPROM, electronically programmable read-only memory, is the technology that made BIOSes updatable by "flashing". EPROM also made BIOSes hack-able. Once you are able to update a BIOS, a clever hacker is able to create an exploited update and bury a back-door deep in the guts of your computer.

If your BIOS is hacked, can you re-flash it with a fresh manufacturer's version? Not always. There are instances where the hacked BIOS might prevent flashing with a new update. There are also instances of OS incompatibility, for example, the program for flashing the BIOS might only be available in Windows and not in Linux or BSD. Or perhaps the manufacturer has locked-down upgrades and does not permit you to do them manually.

image of a BIOS labeled A BIOS hack could render your computer or phone unrecoverable

How might you know that your BIOS is hacked? Suppose that you re-install your OS many times, but always get re-compromised. You might conclude that there is a back-door buried deep in the computer. This would either be deep in the OS or in the BIOS. When the OS is cleaned-up with a fresh install, the BIOS typically does not change. So, you would conclude that the BIOS is hacked.

BIOS hacks are very formidable both because they are difficult to detect and difficult to clean-up. If your BIOS is unrecoverable, you may need to throw the computer in the trash.

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