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Intel Processors Hit with LVI Security Vulnerabilities, Mitigation Hits Performance Hard

A new class of security vulnerabilities affect Intel processors, which can cause them to leak out sensitive information if probed in a certain way, but that's not the worst news for Intel and its users. The software- or firmware-level mitigation for this vulnerability can inflict performance reductions "ranging from 2x to 19x," according to a report by The Register. A full mitigation for the new Load Value Injection (LVI) class of vulnerabilities requires Intel to redesign software compilers. The vulnerability is chronicled under CVE-2020-0551 and Intel-SA-00334. It is not a remote code execution threat, however, it puts multi-tenant machines, such as physical servers handling multiple tenants via virtual servers.

"LVI turns previous data extraction attacks around, like Meltdown, Foreshadow, ZombieLoad, RIDL and Fallout, and defeats all existing mitigations. Instead of directly leaking data from the victim to the attacker, we proceed in the opposite direction: we smuggle — "inject" — the attacker's data through hidden processor buffers into a victim program and hijack transient execution to acquire sensitive information, such as the victim's fingerprints or passwords," the reasearchers write in the abstract of their paper describing the vulnerability. Anti-virus manufacturer BitDefender independently discovered LVI and shared its study with Intel. The company could publish its findings in February. Additional technical details are found in the group's website here.
Many Thanks to biffzinker for the tip.

Intel CPUs Since Haswell Vulnerable to "Zombieload v2" Attacks, "Cascade Lake" Included

All Intel CPU microarchitectures since 2013 are vulnerable to a new class of "Zombieload," attacks, chronicled under "Zombieload v2" (CVE-2019-11135). This is the fifth kind of microarchitectural data sampling (MDS) vulnerability, besides the four already disclosed and patched against in Q2-2019. The vulnerability was kept secret by the people who discovered it, as Intel was yet to develop a mitigation against it. There is no silicon-level hardening against it, and Intel has released a firmware-level mitigation that will be distributed by motherboard manufacturers as BIOS updates, or perhaps even OS vendors. While Intel's latest enterprise and HEDT microarchitecture, "Cascade Lake" was thought to be immune to "Zombieload," it's being reported that "Zombieload v2" attacks can still compromise a "Cascade Lake" based server or HEDT that isn't patched.

"Zombieload v2" is an exploitation of the Asynchronous Abort operation of Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX), which occurs when malware creates read operation conflicts within the CPU. This reportedly leaks data about what else is being processed. "The main advantage of this approach is that it also works on machines with hardware fixes for Meltdown, which we verified on an i9-9900K and Xeon Gold 5218," reads the latest version of the Zombieload whitepaper that's been updated with "Zombieload v2" information. TSX is a requisite for "Zombieload v2," and all Intel microarchitectures since "Haswell" feature it. AMD processors are inherently immune to "Zombieload v2" as they lack TSX. Intel downplayed the severity or prevalence of "Zombieload v2," but dispatched microcode updates flagged "critical" nevertheless.

ASUS Provides BIOS updates addressing MDS vulnerabilities, ZombieLoad, RIDL, and Fallout

ASUS is aware that a new sub-class of speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities in Intel CPUs, called Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS), also known as ZombieLoad, RIDL, and Fallout, may allow information disclosure. Intel states that selected 8th and 9th Generation Intel Core processors, as well as the 2nd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor family, are not vulnerable to MDS. If you are using one of these processors, no further action is necessary.

For other Intel processors, ASUS is working closely with Intel to provide a solution in a forthcoming BIOS update. We recommend owners of affected products update both the BIOS and operating system as soon as these mitigations are available. Please find our first-wave model list below and download the appropriate BIOS update from the ASUS Support website. More details, including affected systems, will be added to this document as they become available.

Yet Another Speculative Malfunction: Intel Reveals New Side-Channel Attack, Advises Disabling Hyper-Threading Below 8th, 9th Gen CPUs

Ouch doesn't even begin to describe how much that headline hurt. As far as speculative execution goes, it's been well covered by now, but here's a refresher. Speculative execution essentially means that your CPU tries to think ahead of time on what data may or may not be needed, and processes it before it knows it's needed. The objective is to take advantage of concurrency in the CPU design, keeping processing units that would otherwise be left idle to process and deliver results on the off-chance that they are indeed required by the system: and when they are called for, the CPU saves time by not having to process them on the fly and already having them available.

The flaws have been announced by Intel in coordination with Austrian university TU Graz, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the University of Michigan, the University of Adelaide, KU Leuven in Belgium, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Saarland University in Germany and security firms Cyberus, BitDefender, Qihoo360 and Oracle. While some of the parties involved have named the four identified flaws with names such as "ZombieLoad", "Fallout", and RIDL, or "Rogue In-Flight Data Load", Intel is using the PEGI-13 "Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS)" name.
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