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Volume Boot Record

(also partition boot sector)

Volume boot record definition

A volume boot record (VBR) is an important part of a storage device (e.g., a hard drive). It stores the code for kickstarting the operating system. VBRs can be found in various computer storage devices, such as hard disks, SSDs, and even USB flash drives — and are used every time the computer starts up. 

See also: BadUSB

How does the volume boot record work? 

  1. 1.A VBR works behind the scenes to kickstart your operating system, with the whole process typically only taking several seconds. 
  2. 2.When you turn on your computer, it checks for a device to start from, like a hard drive or SSD.
  3. 3.It finds the volume boot record (VBR) on the chosen device.
  4. 4.The computer runs the code in the VBR to kick off the process of loading the operating system.
  5. 5.The VBR helps the bootloader find all the files it needs.
  6. 6.The bootloader then loads the operating system, and your computer is good to go!

VBR and cybersecurity concerns 

A VBR can become a target in cyberattacks. Here’s how: 

  • Attackers may create specific malware that infects the VBR and loads malicious code during the boot process. 
  • Cyberattacks may corrupt the VBR, preventing the system from booting properly.
  • Hackers may modify the VBR to gain control over the boot process — and may even install rootkits or other malware.
  • If the attackers manage to compromise the VBR, they may use it to bypass security mechanisms and load malicious operating systems or tools.
  • Attackers may manipulate the VBR to redirect the boot process to steal information or launch further attacks on the system.