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
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 6/1/2020
Stay-at-Home Orders Coincide With Massive DNS Surge
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/27/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-13757
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-01
Python-RSA 4.0 ignores leading '\0' bytes during decryption of ciphertext. This could conceivably have a security-relevant impact, e.g., by helping an attacker to infer that an application uses Python-RSA, or if the length of accepted ciphertext affects application behavior (such as by causing exces...
CVE-2020-13758
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-01
modules/security/classes/general.post_filter.php/post_filter.php in the Web Application Firewall in Bitrix24 through 20.0.950 allows XSS by placing %00 before the payload.
CVE-2020-9291
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-01
An Insecure Temporary File vulnerability in FortiClient for Windows 6.2.1 and below may allow a local user to gain elevated privileges via exhausting the pool of temporary file names combined with a symbolic link attack.
CVE-2019-15709
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-01
An improper input validation in FortiAP-S/W2 6.2.0 to 6.2.2, 6.0.5 and below, FortiAP-U 6.0.1 and below CLI admin console may allow unauthorized administrators to overwrite system files via specially crafted tcpdump commands in the CLI.
CVE-2020-13695
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-01
In QuickBox Community Edition through 2.5.5 and Pro Edition through 2.1.8, the local www-data user has sudo privileges to execute grep as root without a password, which allows an attacker to obtain sensitive information via a grep of a /root/*.db or /etc/shadow file.