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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

Newly Found Spectre Variants Bring New Concerns

Two new variants on a theme of Spectre underscore the expanding nature of the critical vulnerabilities.

The plague that is Spectre continues to evolve and adapt, showing up in two new variants this week dubbed Spectre 1.1 and Spectre 1.2 that follow the original Spectre's playbook while expanding on the ways they can do damage.

Researchers Vladimir Kiriansky of MIT and Carl Waldspurger of Carl Waldspurger Consulting discovered the new variants of the vulnerabilities in Intel microprocessors. The pair earned a $100,000 bug bounty from Intel for their responsible reporting of the new exploits, which was paid through HackerOne.

It's no surprise there are new variants on Spectre: Because of the fundamental nature of the flaw, it has been assumed that there will be a long stream of variations on the theme. The only good news on the new discoveries, says Eric Maurice, director of security assurance at Oracle in a blog post: "Fortunately, the conditions of exploitation for these issues remain similar: malicious exploitation requires the attackers to first obtain the privileges required to install and execute malicious code against the targeted systems."

Spectre 1.1

In the paper announcing the variants, Kiriansky and Waldspurger write that Spectre 1.1, "…leverages speculative stores to create speculative buffer over- flows." Unlike many of the Spectre variants that allow for threat actors to read protected memory, this buffer overflow presents the opportunity for arbitrary code execution on the affected system.

There are limits on the code execution, and the general concern is that attackers will be able to execute code that extracts data from secure memory, giving an attacker access to passwords, crypto keys, and other user authentication or data protection information.

Interestingly, the authors point out that defenses against Spectre 1.0 that use a brute-force and relatively inefficient method (a speculation barrier or lfence) would be effective against Spectre 1.1, while more efficient defenses would not.

Spectre 1.2

The second variant allows an attacker to bypass the Read/Write PTE flags if the enforcement on those flags is lax. The outcome of an exploit of this variant could ultimately allow malware to get out of a sandbox established for system security.

In many ways, Spectre 1.2 is related to Spectre 3, which is generally called Meltdown. Unfortunately, the hardware mitigations that are effective against Meltdown are not effective against Spectre 1.2.

At this time, companies including Microsoft and Red Hat say that they're looking into the new exploits to determine whether or not their products are affected. The researchers presented confirmation that both variants are effective against Intel and ARM processors.

Kiriansky and Waldspurger suggest hardware mitigations in their paper; none of the mitigations are steps that either software developers or end user organizations can take. As with the rest of the Spectre family, full mitigation is going to have to wait for a new generation of re-architected processors to emerge from vendors such as Intel and AMD.

A browser fix for a different Spectre

While the new variants were being announced, Google released a new version of the Chrome browser that mitigates some of the avenues for exploiting side-channel vulnerabilities. The Google mitigation implements what the company calls site isolation, preventing JavaScript code loaded from one website from executing on the edge device and accessing data associated with another site.

The new Chrome browser is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS and makes site isolation, which had been experimental and optional, the default setting for all browsers.

Related Content:

 

 

 

Black Hat USA returns to Las Vegas with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
97% of Americans Can't Ace a Basic Security Test
Steve Zurier, Contributing Writer,  5/20/2019
How Security Vendors Can Address the Cybersecurity Talent Shortage
Rob Rashotte, VP of Global Training and Technical Field Enablement at Fortinet,  5/24/2019
TeamViewer Admits Breach from 2016
Dark Reading Staff 5/20/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Building and Managing an IT Security Operations Program
As cyber threats grow, many organizations are building security operations centers (SOCs) to improve their defenses. In this Tech Digest you will learn tips on how to get the most out of a SOC in your organization - and what to do if you can't afford to build one.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-7068
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-24
Adobe Acrobat and Reader versions 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2017.011.30113 and earlier version, and 2015.006.30464 and earlier have an use after free vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to arbitrary code execution .
CVE-2019-7069
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-24
Adobe Acrobat and Reader versions 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2017.011.30113 and earlier version, and 2015.006.30464 and earlier have a type confusion vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to arbitrary code execution .
CVE-2019-7070
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-24
Adobe Acrobat and Reader versions 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2017.011.30113 and earlier version, and 2015.006.30464 and earlier have an use after free vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to arbitrary code execution .
CVE-2019-7071
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-24
Adobe Acrobat and Reader versions 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2017.011.30113 and earlier version, and 2015.006.30464 and earlier have an out-of-bounds read vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to information disclosure.
CVE-2019-7072
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-24
Adobe Acrobat and Reader versions 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2019.010.20069 and earlier, 2017.011.30113 and earlier version, and 2015.006.30464 and earlier have an use after free vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to arbitrary code execution .