Intel, AMD, and ARM CPUs Hit by New Specter Vulnerability

A few days ago, Intel and ARM chips were affected by a new Specter vulnerability. Dubbed Specter V2, AMD processors were thought to prevent the problem, but new research shows that AMD’s mitigation efforts are inadequate.

The research team at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (via Tom’s Hardware) in the Netherlands demonstrated a new Specter attack that bypasses hardware mitigations implemented by Intel and ARM in recent years. AMD was considered immune, or at least not significantly impacted, but Intel revealed that AMD’s chipset may have vulnerabilities. Since then, AMD has released a security warning that confirms its vulnerability.

Specter is a security vulnerability that affects modern microprocessors that perform speculative branch prediction. A side effect of this is the possibility of revealing data to attackers. While Specter itself dates back to 2017, similar vulnerabilities have been around for many years.

As of 2018, security measures have been implemented, including OS updates, BIOS microcode mitigations, and eventually hardware fixes. However, it seems that these measures were not enough to prevent further exploration.

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“The mitigations [implemented by Intel and Arm] function as intended, but the residual attack surface is much more significant than the vendors originally assumed.” the researchers explained.

While end users are unlikely to fall victim to a Specter attack, it is still advisable to install the various protection updates as they become available, even if they could lead to a performance loss. Fortunately, many applications can be coded with little or no performance penalty, but code running through a web browser should run with mitigations.

So while news of new vulnerabilities is not welcome, it’s important not to panic. It is believed that these risks are rarely explored. Malicious actors use easier methods to get what they want, as long as you keep your system up to date, there is little or nothing to worry about.

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