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Methodology to prevent unauthorised firmware update

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000212075D
Publication Date: 2011-Oct-27
Document File: 3 page(s) / 37K

Publishing Venue

The IP.com Prior Art Database

Abstract

Today Systems like IBM POWER Systems ships with Firmware image that controls various Hardware features. Updating a wrong firmware image into a System will bring the entire System Down. Currently many vendors provide mechanism to update the firmware image during runtime of a system and also provides remote update facilities. For instance IBM POWER Systems provides facilities in HMC to remotely update a firmware image of a managed system and also mechanism to update via Linux Companion Box. The Operating Systems also provides mechanism to update the firmware image using tools like update_flash.

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Methodology to prevent unauthorised firmware update

Today Systems like IBM* POWER** Systems ships with Firmware image that controls various Hardware features. Updating a wrong firmware image into a System will bring the entire System Down. Currently many vendors provide mechanism to update the firmware image during runtime of a system and also provides remote update facilities. For instance IBM POWER Systems provides facilities in HMC to remotely update a firmware image of a managed system and also mechanism to update via Linux*** Companion Box. The Operating Systems also provides mechanism to update the firmware image using tools like update_flash.

These kind of facilities opens up security loop holes in firmware flashing mechanism which may lead to significant loss of data & system down time, which leads to revenue loss and increased administrative costs.

Currently there is no mechanism to prevent unauthorized firmware updates or mistaken updates. The proposed methodology will help system administrators to have more granular access control mechanism and as well notification mechanism which helps in preventing unnecessary incidence & downtime.

The proposed methodology will prevent privileged users from updating the firmware image with out proper authorization and as well prevent parallel invocations of firmware image update. The methodology is to provide double access control, one is based on RBAC (Role based access control) and another one is provision of control switch.

The RBAC mechanism will provide administrators to choose users who will be privileged to update the firmware image.

The control switch provides a mechanism to disable or enable the facility to update the firmware image.

Prevention is better than cure. Hence preventing unauthorised firmware updates is better than recovering from a wrong update.

In this method, Flexible Support Processor(FSP) which is the control processor normally available in IBM Systems, plays an important role....