Zombieload Intel side-channel attack detailed - CPU

Researchers have uncovered a new flaw in Intel chips More

A major vulnerability, known as ZombieLoad, has been discovered that affects almost every Intel processor made since 2011.

ZombieLoad is similar to Meltdown and Spectre, two bugs in 2018 that allowed critical information stored deep inside computer systems to be exposed.

'Even if home users used their browsers to visit a website with an advert or other content with a malware Java programme, the hacker could still steal information, ' the researchers say.

ZombieLoad (CVE-2018-12130) is the most unsafe vulnerability, although the researchers also found three others: CVE-2018-12126, CVE-2018-12127 and CVE-2019-11091.

This has led the researchers to name the flaw as Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS) given that it depends on the microarchitectural data structures of the processor such as the load, store, and line fill buffers for leaking info. Spectre, which proved more hard to patch even at the software level, also afflicted Intel's competitors, including AMD and ARM, which manufactures chips for smartphones and other internet-of-things devices.

It has also released microcode updates to address the vulnerabilities, although these could apparently have a 9% performance hit on cloud machines and around 3% on desktops and laptops.

Intel said that patches will fix the issue, and Apple and Microsoft are expected to release patches in the next few hours.

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"It's kind of like we treat the CPU as a network of components, and we basically eavesdrop on the traffic between them, "Cristiano Giuffrida, a researcher at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam who discovered the MDS attack, told Wired".

It has been just over a year since CPU vulnerabilities like Spectre and Meltdown last dominated the news cycle.

Taken together, the three exploits against four vulnerabilities cover processors dating back to 2008. They called the vulnerabilities 'Zombieload'. Because these factors will vary considerably by customer, Intel is not recommending that Intel HT be disabled, and it's important to understand that doing so does not alone provide protection against MDS.

Dutch researchers discover a major leak in Intel processors that is present in 75% of all computers with an Intel processor. Essentially, exploiting the vulnerabilities would allow malicious types to eavesdrop on data as it makes its way across a CPU.

Although no attacks exploiting the ZombieLoad bugs have been publicly reported, the researchers could not rule them out, because they say an attack would not necessarily leave a trace.

If any updates are available you should download and install them now. However, it said, that the influence on many PC owners should be minimum.

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