Intel Foreshadow Flaw

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A new Intel security flaw has been exposed – named ‘Foreshadow,’ the flaw is similar to Meltdown and Spectre, in that it undermines the most secure element of the company’s chips. Intel admits that theForeshadow bugs can be used to launch ‘speculative execution’ attacks – exploiting how Intel chooses to run parts of computer programs before a user selects them – to extract sensitive data from PCs or third-party clouds.

Through Foreshadow, a determined attacker can get into a secure area, and attack using malware disguised as a regular application. The Foreshadow bugs can create malicious applications that recognize data from other apps or a computer’s OS memory, or create a guest virtual machine (VM), which can recognize data from the VM memory or other guest VMs. IT security experts commented below.

Ken Spinner, VP of Field Engineering at Varonis:

“Cloud providers of virtual servers are more susceptible than on-premises networks in this instance because that’s the most likely place you’d have one physical server housing dozens of virtual machines run by different companies. If the vulnerability could be successfully exploited, attackers could hit the jackpot. However, a data centre could hold literally hundreds of thousands of servers and potentially millions of VMs. Hackers would be conducting an unfocused attack, rather than focusing on exploiting a target organisation. It would be a shot in the dark.

These vulnerabilities are the latest in a long line of exploits. While the approaches change, the goal often stays the same – to grab your company’s data. To complicate matters, most companies are dealing with hybrid data stores with some of their data on-premises and some in the cloud, which creates challenges and potential risk from a security and data governance standpoint. Never assume your data is safe in the cloud. If your cloud environment isn’t secure, your data won’t just be in danger of being exposed to your entire organisation – it could be accessible to hackers or even the world.”

Setu Kulkarni, VP of Corporate Strategy at WhiteHat Security:

“With the proliferation of devices and given the sheer effort required to update the 100s of millions of devices – whether they are personal devices or time-shared cloud systems, the impact of these variants is massive. The widespread nature of the impact of the vulnerabilities behind Spectre and Meltdown have multiple security holes, including the latest flaw – Foreshadow. Unlike application security vulnerabilities where the remediation/mitigation is increasingly ‘centralized’ with cloud-based, multi-tenant systems, the same cannot be said about chip vulnerabilities. It’s getting to be a zero-sum game, as infosecurity teams are dealing with an increasing variety of security issues… the more they protect, the more there is to protect. There is a revolution waiting to happen in the way security teams will respond to the increasing variety and volume of security challenges – and it’s going to be based in automation, data science and shifting from ‘what we need to protect’ to ‘who we need to protect.’

The universal backward compatibility for the internet may also be subject to future change. Just as old versions of TLS and SSL can never be secure again, Foreshadow’s use of speculative execution has the potential capacity to break down the barriers between virtual machines – which may also impact cloud service providers and eHosting. The demand for speed of web page loading may yet prove our undoing, and the web may see an adjustment of expectations in the name of security rather than expedience.”

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