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Microsoft Issues Emergency Patch to Disable Intel's Broken Spectre Fix
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BrianN060
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BrianN060,
User Rank: Ninja
1/29/2018 | 7:21:52 PM
A question for DR
Thanks Kelly,  Once we learned that underlying vulnerability was multi-chip-vendor (so multi-OS and Applications), we knew a long series of mitigation and fix iterations was inevitable. 

A question DR might be able to answer is: Would the last few weeks of chaos been avoided, if the confidentially informed vendors had more time before public disclosure? 
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
1/30/2018 | 9:40:45 AM
Re: A question for DR
That's a great question, @BrianN060. I've wondered the same thing. The patches/updates were obviously rushed without time to properly vet and test them. The underlying (and well, ironic) problem of mitigating an attack against a performance feature in the microprocessor that ends up hurting performance is a tough one, for sure. The patches don't really fix anything--they just mitigate exploits--so I wonder how much more time it would have taken for Intel to come up with a more robust solution. The real fix to these flaws is a new generation of microprocessors, which will likely take years for most organizations to adopt. 

But overall, there indeed seems to have been a disconnect in the patch/update process among Intel and the system vendors. How are things going at your organization?
BrianN060
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BrianN060,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2018 | 12:29:57 PM
Re: A question for DR
Thanks for asking, Kelly.  As a small consulting firm, it's pretty easy to keep an eye on things, and sidestep most chances for exploitation (especially the targeted, high-value attacks expected from M/S). Still, having to replace all effected devices won't be an easy pill for most small orgs and individuals.  I like the line from an 80s sitcom: "Great!  But can we afford it?"  "Sure.  It's a deductible expense." (then, as an aside) "We'll just deduct it from our savings.

While, as you mention, the "new devices" solution won't be viable, for a while for anyone; it may never be for most.  What I think we'll get from that is a muddy environment of new and fixed, old and crippled, and old and vulnerable - all having to interact, at some level.

Another issue with the new-device solution is the 800lb gorilla in the room: what happens when a new hardware vulnerability is discovered in those? 

We may need some BIOS/OS solutions that keep the old devices viable, short-term; and to start mapping out a new paradigm, long-term. 

Just wondering if on-chip security was really the best path, to begin with?  It's like designing a hammer that will prevent you from hitting your own thumb.  Yes, that could work; but then you'd have to design and buy new hammers for every other misuse someone could think of.  Maybe better to leave the tool simply as a tool, and control the how, where and when of its use.
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
1/30/2018 | 2:24:55 PM
Re: A question for DR
You raise a really good point:

Another issue with the new-device solution is the 800lb gorilla in the room: what happens when a new hardware vulnerability is discovered in those? 

That is a very real possibility, and indeed it does question how Intel (and its competitors) can better build on-chip security, factoring in future flaw finds and update processes.  
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2018 | 7:17:52 PM
How about new chips
I am wondering if intel has a real solution to the problem, are they fixing the new CPUs that they produced?
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2018 | 7:19:22 PM
Re: A question for DR
Once we learned that underlying vulnerability was multi-chip-vendor (so multi-OS and Applications), we knew a long series of mitigation and fix iterations was inevitable. That makes sense. Hopefully these variants will end soon.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2018 | 7:20:33 PM
Re: A question for DR
Would the last few weeks of chaos been avoided, if the confidentially informed vendors had more time before public disclosure? I hear you, I would say it would be the same, they would not take action until last minute.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2018 | 7:22:06 PM
Re: A question for DR
The patches/updates were obviously rushed without time to properly vet and test them. That makes sense. They would still see problems when they deploy it to mass market.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2018 | 7:23:43 PM
Re: A question for DR
The patches don't really fix anything--they just mitigate exploits- I think that is why we need to go to a real solution, performance hit is not really acceptable.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2018 | 7:25:30 PM
Re: A question for DR
The real fix to these flaws is a new generation of microprocessors, which will likely take years for most organizations to adopt. That makes sense, I am also wondering if there is way to fix exiting CPUs for new devices.
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