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New Secret-spilling Flaw Affects Almost Every Intel Chip Since 2011

By TechCrunch

May 15, 2019

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Security researchers have found a new class of vulnerabilities in Intel chips which, if exploited, can be used to steal sensitive information directly from the processor.

The bugs are reminiscent of Meltdown and Spectre, which exploited a weakness in speculative execution, an important part of how modern processors work. Speculative execution helps processors predict to a certain degree what an application or operating system might need next and in the near-future, making the app run faster and more efficient. The processor will execute its predictions if they're needed, or discard them if they're not.

Both Meltdown and Spectre leaked sensitive data stored briefly in the processor, including secrets — such as passwords, secret keys and account tokens, and private messages.

Now some of the same researchers are back with an entirely new round of data-leaking bugs.

"ZombieLoad," as it's called, is a side-channel attack targeting Intel chips, allowing hackers to effectively exploit design flaws rather than injecting malicious code. Intel said ZombieLoad is made up of four bugs, which the researchers reported to the chip maker just a month ago.

Almost every computer with an Intel chip dating back to 2011 are affected by the vulnerabilities. AMD and ARM chips are not said to be vulnerable like earlier side-channel attacks.

 

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