Intel Chips Are Vulnerable To Security Breach

The technology website Register reported that some Intel processors have a “fundamental design flaw” that will spur a significant security update of Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems to work around it. It went on to say that AMD chips were not affected by this.

The three Vulnerabilities have been disclosed:

  1. CVE-2017-5753
  2. CVE-2017-5715 (1 & 2 are collectively known as Spectre)
  3. CVE-2017-5754 (Meltdown)

All three vulnerabilities are variants of the same attack utilising different methods to exploit speculative execution of instructions.

The vulnerability could be leveraged by malware and hackers to more easily exploit other security bugs.

The report says “Programmers are scrambling to overhaul the open-source Linux kernel’s virtual memory system. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to publicly introduce the necessary changes to its Windows operating system in an upcoming Patch Tuesday: these changes were seeded to beta testers running fast-ring Windows Insider builds in November and December.

And in regards to a performance hit it goes on to say “Crucially, these updates to both Linux and Windows will incur a performance hit on Intel products. The effects are still being benchmarked, however we’re looking at a ballpark figure of five to 30 per cent slow down, depending on the task and the processor model. More recent Intel chips have features – such as PCID – to reduce the performance hit. Your mileage may vary.

According to the report the bug is present in modern Intel processors produced in the past 10 years.




Intel Responds to Security Research Findings (Update 03-01-2018)

Intel and other technology companies have been made aware of new security research describing software analysis methods that, when used for malicious purposes, have the potential to improperly gather sensitive data from computing devices that are operating as designed. Intel believes these exploits do not have the potential to corrupt, modify or delete data.

Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a “bug” or a “flaw” and are unique to Intel products are incorrect. Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices — with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems — are susceptible to these exploits.

Intel is committed to product and customer security and is working closely with many other technology companies, including AMD, ARM Holdings and several operating system vendors, to develop an industry-wide approach to resolve this issue promptly and constructively. Intel has begun providing software and firmware updates to mitigate these exploits. Contrary to some reports, any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time.

Intel is committed to the industry best practice of responsible disclosure of potential security issues, which is why Intel and other vendors had planned to disclose this issue next week when more software and firmware updates will be available. However, Intel is making this statement today because of the current inaccurate media reports.

Check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available. Following good security practices that protect against malware in general will also help protect against possible exploitation until updates can be applied.

Intel believes its products are the most secure in the world and that, with the support of its partners, the current solutions to this issue provide the best possible security for its customers.





Duncan Newell

Duncan is a technology professional with over 20 years experience of working in various IT roles. He has a interest in cyber security, and has a wide range of other skills in radio, electronics and telecommunications.

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