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

Spectre Returns with 8 New Variants

Researchers have discovered versions of the processor vulnerability.

It's hard to keep a bad vulnerability down. In this case, Spectre is back in eight new varieties that promise to keep alive the conversation on the best way to defend a vulnerability that exists at the most basic level of a computing system — and how to close a vulnerability that is an integral part of modern computing's high performance.

German security website reported yesterday that unnamed researchers have found a series of new vulnerabilities that take advantage of the same issues reported in the original Spectre and Meltdown incidents. According to the site, each of the vulnerabilities will have its own number in the CVE directory as parts of a block of entries Intel has reserved for just such a possibility.

Of the eight, four have been designated "high risk" and four "medium risk," with all apparently having results similar to the original vulnerabilities — all, that is, except one.

The one exception would allow an exploit to go much farther in its boundary crossing than the original. In the new version, a malicious process launched in one virtual machine could read data from the cache of another virtual machine or from the hypervisor. This behavior significantly increases the potential impact of a breach.

"The basic problem is that, as part of the operating system, we've taken great pains to isolate the memory space of process 1 from the memory space of process 2. This security domain is destroyed by the time you get into the cache," says Satya Gupta, CTO and co-founder of Virsec. That domain destruction is already in process by the time Spectre exploit code executes, though, because of the way that Spectre operates.

"Specter and melt down are components of something else," says Mike Murray, vice president of security intelligence at Lookout. "If you give me an account on your laptop you should worry about Specter," he says, adding, "but if you don't, and you're not going to any sketchy Web pages that happen to be exploiting it or things like that, then the odds of me being able to use it are pretty small."

"It's a local privilege escalation more than anything else," Murray says, though that may do little to soothe fears of a vulnerability so deeply embedded in the system.

According to Heise.de, the website reporting these new variants, Intel has patches in process and will release the patches in two waves, the first in May and the second in August. These patches will be accompanied by patches from Microsoft and other operating system publishers.

Gupta says the ultimate fix to the problem involves a change to one of the processor's core components. "The smallest possible part to change is the instruction cache," he says. "It's agnostic now and it loses the linkage between process and instruction. The processors need to have an idea of which process is executing — memory isolation is really important."

In some ways, the issue may be even more basic than the silicon. "Complexity breeds opportunity for vulnerability. And we just keep making the systems more complex," says Murray.

Contacted separately, Gupta and Murray were each asked whether they thought that there would be more Spectre-like vulnerabilities announced in the future. Each began their answer with a laugh before continuing, "Oh, yes."

Related content:

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
TeamViewer Admits Breach from 2016
Dark Reading Staff 5/20/2019
How a Manufacturing Firm Recovered from a Devastating Ransomware Attack
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  5/20/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
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-2019-7844
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-22
Adobe Media Encoder version 13.0.2 has an out-of-bounds read vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to information disclosure.
CVE-2017-9809
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-22
OX Software GmbH OX App Suite 7.8.4 and earlier is affected by: Information Exposure.
CVE-2018-12886
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-22
stack_protect_prologue in cfgexpand.c and stack_protect_epilogue in function.c in GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) 4.1 through 8 (under certain circumstances) generate instruction sequences when targeting ARM targets that spill the address of the stack protector guard, which allows an attacker to bypas...
CVE-2019-7834
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-22
Adobe Acrobat and Reader versions 2019.010.20100 and earlier, 2019.010.20099 and earlier, 2017.011.30140 and earlier, 2017.011.30138 and earlier, 2015.006.30495 and earlier, and 2015.006.30493 and earlier have a use after free vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to arbitrary code execu...
CVE-2019-7835
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-22
Adobe Acrobat and Reader versions 2019.010.20100 and earlier, 2019.010.20099 and earlier, 2017.011.30140 and earlier version, 2017.011.30138 and earlier, 2015.006.30495 and earlier, and 2015.006.30493 and earlier have a use after free vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to arbitrary co...