An Intel design flaw opens the door to malware on your processor
It is not the first time that we have talked about Intel processors being susceptible to malware, as in June we talked about it Intel could have installed backdoors on their processorss, and if the bug that we are going to discuss in this article is not fixed, the processors based on the Haswell architecture could be in danger.
Popular i7-4770 or i5-4590 affected
Researchers from the State University of New York and the University of California have devised a technique that allows bypassing a key part of the security used by processors, and that is included in almost all current operating systems. So far, they have managed to make it work on processors Haswell, architecture used by Intel in such popular processors as the i7-4770 or the i5-4590.
One of the common goals of malware writers is to perform a memory attack, to find out where in memory each piece of code for a given software runs. To avoid this, manufacturers randomize the parts where that code is executed using a system called ASLR (Adress Space Layout Randomization). This prevents attackers from installing malware by exploiting vulnerabilities in the operating system or a program.
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All affected operating systems
Researchers have developed a small application that allows identifying the location in memory where pieces of code generated by other software will be loaded. This vulnerability was found on a Linux-based operating system, but it also makes vulnerabilities ASLR implementations on Windows and OS X. The researchers have further stated that they will investigate other architectures in addition to Haswell.
The vulnerability is found within the processors themselves, and allows us to bypass what is sometimes the only layer of protection that prevents malware from being installed on our computer. It is so serious that It also allows attacking virtualized operating systems, even those that are cloud-based.
A person in charge of Intel ensures that they are aware of the study, which opens the door to fix the failure in the Haswell processors through an update, or in the case of not being able, to fix it for the development of future processors.
From Windows 8 onwards, Microsoft introduced HEASLR, which is a more advanced and secure variant of ASLR, so we don’t know if the Later versions, such as Windows 10, would be immune to these types of attacks.