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7/13/2018
01:20 PM
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8 Big Processor Vulnerabilities in 2018

Security researchers have been working in overdrive examining processors for issues - and they haven't come up empty-handed.
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Spectre and Meltdown
Before the haze from New Year's Eve fireworks even had a chance to dissipate, the security world was rocked by the disclosure of Spectre and Meltdown, two similar side-channel flaws in CPUs from Intel, AMD, and ARM. Affecting nearly all modern microprocessors, the vulnerabilities were found in how they carry out the functions of caching and speculative execution. The latter is particularly depended on to optimize CPU performance by predicting a command before it is even requested. These vulnerabilities can be exploited to force the operating system and applications to expose system memory data, which could include any nature of protected information, such as passwords and encryption keys.
Image Source: Adobe Stock (Production Perig)

Spectre and Meltdown

Before the haze from New Year's Eve fireworks even had a chance to dissipate, the security world was rocked by the disclosure of Spectre and Meltdown, two similar side-channel flaws in CPUs from Intel, AMD, and ARM. Affecting nearly all modern microprocessors, the vulnerabilities were found in how they carry out the functions of caching and speculative execution. The latter is particularly depended on to optimize CPU performance by predicting a command before it is even requested. These vulnerabilities can be exploited to force the operating system and applications to expose system memory data, which could include any nature of protected information, such as passwords and encryption keys.

Image Source: Adobe Stock (Production Perig)

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tomas.honzak@gooddata.com
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7/17/2018 | 3:02:32 PM
Excellent overview -- but does it end here?
Nicely summarized the evolution of the biggest hardware-level nightmare of 2018 (I hope I don't have to include "so far"...) 

After spending a good part of this year watching our infrastructure engineers and security experts trying to come up with a solid mitigation plan that would not kill our SaaS platform immediately and seeing how our response strategy had to change more than a dozen times as the new and updated kernel patches and CPU microcodes were published and recalled, and new and updated attack vectors and vulnerabilities were discovered, it became literally impossible to keep track of our overall exposure and risks.

Not to mention our enterprise customers, who tried so hard to keep track on our patching progress for the first three months of the year, after which they gave up as the development of this crisis turned into an unmanageable nightmare.

In the end, similarly to how the industry seems to be getting used to the fact that data breaches are the new reality and the overwhelming amount of new incidents does not come out as a surprise anymore, we need to accept that the complexity of today's CPUs, together with the fact that the primary focus of the manufacturers was, is and will be the performance, means that there might be many additional hw-level security flaws to be discovered over the next months and years.

To me, the takeaway is very simple: security and privacy are ongoing end to end process and rather than relying on particular technology or safeguard, we need to continue looking on risks and mitigate them on all the levels, starting by collecting just the minimal data needed - and ending by continuously improving the layered security.
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