Skip to comments.Horrific Security Flaw Affects Decade of Intel Processors
Posted on 01/03/2018 1:55:39 PM PST by Red Badger
The fix requires major OS rewrites which will probably make your computer run slower.
An extremely severe security flaw has been found to affect nearly every Intel processor made in the past decade or more, giving any hackers who might know how to exploit it access to protected information systemwide. The Register reports that programmers are rushing to make the sweeping changes necessary to protect against the vulnerability on Linux and Windows operating systems, with such fixes required on macOS as well. Even worse, you can expect these vital updates to noticeably slow down your computer.
The design flaw in Intel's x86-64 hardwarefirst introduced in 2004 and still in use in the lion's share of modern-day processorsallows programs without the proper permissions to access the part of an operating system known as the kernel, a low-level chunk of code that controls literally everything in your system.
The exact details of the vulnerability are still somewhat under wraps, but as The Register has pieced together from multiple, technical sources, it appears the flaw is based in a feature called "speculative execution." This trick allows a processor to do things before it's absolutely sure they need to be done, so the results are ready as quickly as possible if needed and simply ignored if not. In Intel's x86-64 hardware, however, it appears that programs may be able to speculatively execute code they would not have permission to run under normal circumstances, allowing carefully-constructed, malicious code to essentially read your entire operating system's mind without the proper permission. The potential bounty of such an attack includes passwords, login files, and pretty much anything you'd ever want to keep secret.
It's hard to zero in on the most troubling part of this flaw. Intel's x86-64x processors are the most widely-used chips in virtually every form of laptop. If you don't know what processor you have, you almost certainly have one with this flaw. If you do have an AMD processor, however, congratulationsthey are confirmed to be safe from the exploit.
In addition to the ubiquity of Intel processors, the low-level nature of this vulnerability means that hackers who may have learned to exploit it would have access to an unprecedented number of machines. And considering x86-64 has been around and prevalent since 2004, possible hackers have had access for over 10 years. No researchers have yet come forward with an example program that exploits this flaw, but that's hardly proof that hackers, or the NSA, didn't figure out how to make use of this exploit years ago.
On top of it all, the fix requires extremely deep and wide-reaching changes at the root levels of an operating system's softwarechanges that could impact performance of Intel machines by as much as 30 percent. The only alternative? A new computer with a different processor, or one powerful enough to make up for the performance hit. Even worse, these performance hits won't just come to your computer, but also the army of distant servers that run countless internet-connected services in the cloud.
So what can you do? Not much. If you have a computer with a competing AMD processor, pat yourself on the back and breathe easy. Otherwise, make sure that your computer's operating system is up to date with the latest security updates, though fixes for this particular problem may not be widely available for days or even weeks. Intel has yet to publicly comment on the vulnerability, but the consequences will likely reverberate for years.
I smell a lawsuit...
These people are going to create artificial intelligence? They can’t even make a processor work right, let alone the software that runs on it.
Hang on a bit till we know more.
If this is related to Intel Vpro, 90% of systems out there are not effected as they don’t use Vpro.
My question is always, Did an H1B visa employee do this? Before I retired I had to monitor everything they did.
This is a very big deal and will substantially impact Intel’s stock and future revenues.
This is a long-term short opportunity.
>>These people are going to create artificial intelligence?
The people who write viruses, malware, and adware algorithms are probably more likely to create AI first. This is just another reason why they should be hanged immediately as horse thieves were when caught.
A flaw like this may have been intentional via the NSA...................
My guess is that was a feature.
Brought to you by the US government.
Ok, the race is on. Will Apple fix theirs before Microsoft.
Who’s OS will take the biggest hit in speed.
This is why I’m still running PowerPC based xServes to run websites.
Somebody discovered the back-door that the NSA demanded.
Dunno, but my battery will last a lot longer...
Beat me to it!
The problem started with upper management back 7 years ago.
To save $, they outsourced validation to Costa Rica and fired all the experienced validation engineers in Portland.
Middle management was forced by threats of termination to make it happen.
Rumors were dancing around back 1.5 years ago they had an issue.
Makes me really happy I always buy AMD processors.
The guys at AMD must be doing handstands right now.
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