Zombieload Bug Fix Will Mire Down Chips

Intel announces another security flaw in chips

Millions of computers have been affected by a new vulnerability on nearly every Intel chip since 2011, allowing hackers to steal sensitive information directly from the processor.

A major flaw has been discovered that affects almost all post-2011 Intel chips and, if exploited, could be used to steal sensitive information directly from the processor. The three computer scientists, together with Graz University of Technology Professor Stefan Mangard, were already involved in the discovery of the serious security gaps Meltdown and Spectre a year ago. If the vulnerability were exploited, it could allow attackers to spy on any Intel Core or Xeon-branded central processing unit (CPU) released since 2011.

Apple was quick to publish today a new support page to teach Mac users on macOS Mojave, High Sierra, and Sierra how to fully mitigate the newly disclosed Intel Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS) vulnerabilities. "These secrets can be user-level secrets, such as browser history, website content, user keys, and passwords, or system-level secrets, such as disk encryption keys".

Intel has now released patches to the microcode that will help clear the processor's buffers.

"In essence, [MDS] puts a glass to the wall that separates security domains, allowing attackers to listen to the babbling of CPU components", VUSec, one of the firms that discovered the flaws, said in a paper set to be presented next week and seen by Wired.

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As explained by TechCrunch's Zack Whittaker, ZombieLoad allows hackers to "exploit design flaws, rather than inject malicious code".

"ZombieLoad is a novel category of side-channel attacks which we refer to as data-sampling attack", the researchers say in a Tuesday blog post.

The security industry meanwhile warned that these Zombieload flaws can be exploited equally by criminal hackers or government agencies.

Dutch researchers discover a major leak in Intel processors that is present in 75% of all computers with an Intel processor. These latest exploits apply similar techniques used in the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities revealed in early 2018, and have the potential to "leak" otherwise secure data on Intel's CPUs going back at least as far as 2008 models. Right now, there are no reports of this issue being actively exploited outside of a controlled research environment, although that doesn't necessarily mean that it has never happened.

While fixes may be starting to become available, it will take time for them to be applied to PCs and servers affected by the four variants. It said that Android users are not impacted.

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