Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Operational Security //


09:05 AM
Scott Ferguson
Scott Ferguson
News Analysis-Security Now

Congressman Looking for Answers About Spectre & Meltdown

A California congressman has written to the CEOs of Intel, AMD and ARM seeking answers about the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.

A California congressman is seeking answers to the recently disclosed Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities found in many microprocessors, and has written letters to the CEOs of Intel, AMD and ARM.

In his letter, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked the CEOs to provide answers about the Spectre and Meltdown flaws and the wide-ranging effects these vulnerabilities could have regarding any number of PCs, servers or other devices, such as smartphones.

McNerry also raised concerns about cybersecurity issues.

"Analysis by security researchers suggests that nefarious actors could use Spectre and Meltdown to access and steal users' personal information, including passwords, online bank accounts, emails, and photos," according to the January 16 letter. "They could also take advantage of these security flaws to access and steal critical documents held by businesses and government agencies. Should the vulnerabilities be exploited, the effects on consumers' privacy and our nation's economy and security would be absolutely devastating."

After the disclosure of Spectre and Meltdown earlier this year, it was Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) that took the biggest hit since it's the world's largest producer of x86 chips. At CES, CEO Brian Krzanich laid out the company's plans to be more forthcoming with these types of security concerns. (See Security Warning: Intel Inside.)

However, Intel is not the only chip maker susceptible to these two flaws, and in addition to Krzanich, letters were also sent to Lisa Su, the CEO of Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD), and Simon Segars, the CEO of ARM Ltd. (Nasdaq: ARMHY; London: ARM), which is owned by Softbank.

In addition to questions about the scope of Spectre and Meltdown, as well as how consumers are affected, McNerry is asking for a timeframe of when the companies knew about the vulnerabilities and when notifications went out, as well as what is being done to fix these issues in future chip designs.

"In recent years, we witnessed the largest global ransomware attack in history and the largest distributed-denial-of-service attack of its kind in history," McNerry wrote. "The warning signs keep piling on, yet cybersecurity practices continue to lag far behind."

Although these types of vulnerabilities have been known for close to 20 years, Spectre and Meltdown came to wide public attention earlier this month thanks to a paper published by researchers at Graz University of Technology in Austria. (See New Intel Vulnerability Hits Almost Everyone.)

The research found that by manipulating pre-executed commands within the chip, which help make data available faster, hackers can gain access to the content of the kernel memory. The security issue for enterprises is that this flaw can allow a hacker to gain access to encryption keys and other authentication details of whatever system the CPU is running in.

McNerry, who holds a PhD in mathematics, has recently introduced a bill called Securing IoT Act, which would require cybersecurity standards and certifications for wireless devices used in the Internet of Things.

Related posts:

— Scott Ferguson, Editor, Enterprise Cloud News. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Exploiting Google Cloud Platform With Ease
Dark Reading Staff 8/6/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: They said you could use Zoom anywhere.......
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Buffer overflow in a subsystem for some Intel(R) Server Boards, Server Systems and Compute Modules before version 1.59 may allow a privileged user to potentially enable denial of service via local access.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Uninitialized pointer in BIOS firmware for Intel(R) Server Board Families S2600CW, S2600KP, S2600TP, and S2600WT may allow a privileged user to potentially enable escalation of privilege via local access.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Improper initialization in BIOS firmware for Intel(R) Server Board Families S2600ST, S2600BP and S2600WF may allow a privileged user to potentially enable escalation of privilege via local access.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Unprotected Storage of Credentials vulnerability in McAfee Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for Mac prior to 11.5.2 allows local users to gain access to the RiskDB username and password via unprotected log files containing plain text credentials.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Out-of-bounds write in Kernel Mode Driver for some Intel(R) Graphics Drivers before version may allow an authenticated user to potentially enable denial of service via local access.