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Newly found Spectre exploits bypass all previous mitigations

A team of researchers has found new Spectre exploits affecting both Intel and AMD processors. The currently available mitigations do not avoid an attack using the new exploits, but researchers are still unsure about the difficulty of using the newly found vulnerabilities in a real-world application.

The paper (via Phoronix) shared by the researchers of the University of Virginia and University of California San Diego shows that there are three attacks exploiting micro-op cache vulnerabilities. Considering Intel has been using micro-op caches since Sandy Bridge and AMD since the first Zen architecture, most modern systems are prone to an attack using these exploits.

Using the micro-op cache exploits, attackers may steal information from the system. The paper explains that there are three attacks to be aware of:

  • A same thread cross-domain attack that leaks secrets across the user- kernel boundary.
  • A cross-SMT thread attack that transmits secrets across two SMT threads running on the micro-op cache.
  • Transient execution attacks that have the ability to leak an unauthorized secret accessed along a misspeculated path, even before the transient instruction is dispatched to execution, breaking several existing invisible speculation and fencing-based solutions that mitigate Spectre.

The researchers believe that these exploits will be harder to mitigate without decreasing performance of the CPU. Both Intel and AMD are aware of these new exploits but there is no timeline for when mitigations may start to roll out.

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KitGuru says: Spectre has reared its ugly head once again, this time with fresh exploits. Hopefully we’ll hear from Intel and AMD soon on the plan to mitigate these newly found vulnerabilities. 

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