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
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
7 Old IT Things Every New InfoSec Pro Should Know
Joan Goodchild, Staff Editor,  4/20/2021
News
Cloud-Native Businesses Struggle With Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/6/2021
Commentary
Defending Against Web Scraping Attacks
Rob Simon, Principal Security Consultant at TrustedSec,  5/7/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-20331
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
Specific versions of the MongoDB C# Driver may erroneously publish events containing authentication-related data to a command listener configured by an application. The published events may contain security-sensitive data when commands such as "saslStart", "saslContinue", "i...
CVE-2021-31215
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
SchedMD Slurm before 20.02.7 and 20.03.x through 20.11.x before 20.11.7 allows remote code execution as SlurmUser because use of a PrologSlurmctld or EpilogSlurmctld script leads to environment mishandling.
CVE-2020-36197
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
An improper access control vulnerability has been reported to affect earlier versions of Music Station. If exploited, this vulnerability allows attackers to compromise the security of the software by gaining privileges, reading sensitive information, executing commands, evading detection, etc. This ...
CVE-2020-36198
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
A command injection vulnerability has been reported to affect certain versions of Malware Remover. If exploited, this vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands. This issue affects: QNAP Systems Inc. Malware Remover versions prior to 4.6.1.0. This issue does not affect: QNAP...
CVE-2021-28799
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
An improper authorization vulnerability has been reported to affect QNAP NAS running HBS 3 (Hybrid Backup Sync. ) If exploited, the vulnerability allows remote attackers to log in to a device. This issue affects: QNAP Systems Inc. HBS 3 versions prior to v16.0.0415 on QTS 4.5.2; versions prior to v3...