Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Security: Updates, AMD, Intel, IBM/Power, Blender 3D, CES and More

Filed under
Security
  • Security updates for Friday
  • AMD processors: Not as safe as you might have thought

    In a posting. Mark Papermaster, AMD's CTO, admitted Google Project Zero (GPZ) Variant 1 (Bounds Check Bypass or Spectre) is applicable to AMD processors. But, Papermaster wrote, "We believe this threat can be contained with an operating system (OS) patch and we have been working with OS providers to address this issue."

  •  

  • AMD CPUs Are Potentially Vulnerable To Spectre / Variant 2

    Last week in light of the Spectre disclosure. AMD believed they were at "near zero risk" to Variant Two / Branch Target Injection. But now the company confirmed last night that's not the case: they are at least potentially vulnerable.

  • AMD Confirms Its Chips Are Affected By Spectre Flaw, Starts Pushing Security Patches
  • Intel Releases Linux CPU Microcodes To fix Meltdown & Spectre Bugs

    On January 8th Intel released new Linux Processor microcode data files that can be used to mitigate the Spectre and and Meltdown vulnerabilities in Intel CPUs. Using microcode files, an operating system can fix known bugs in Intel CPU without having to perform a BIOS update on the computer.

  • Power Systems And The Spectre And Meltdown Threats

    Speculative execution is something that has been part of modern processors for well over a decade, and while it is hard to quantify how much of a performance benefit this collection of techniques have delivered, it is obviously significant enough that all CPUs, including IBM Power and System z chips, have them. And that, as the new Spectre and Meltdown security holes that were announced by Google on January 3 show, turns out to be a big problem.

    Without getting too deep into the technical details, there are many different ways to implement speculative execution, which is used to keep the many instruction pipelines and layers of cache in a processor busy doing what is hoped will be useful work. So much of what a computer does is an IF-THEN-ELSE kind of branch, and being able to pre-calculate the answers to multiple possible branches in an instruction stream is more efficient than following each path independently and calculating the answers in series. The speculative part of the execution involves using statistics to analyze patterns in data and instructions underneath an application and guessing which branches and data will be needed. If you guess right a lot of the time, then the CPU does a lot more work than it might otherwise. There are no modern processors (except for the PowerPC A2 chips used in the BlueGene/Q supercomputers from IBM) that we can find that don’t have speculative execution in some form or another, and there is no easy way to quantify how much of a performance boost it gives.

  • Blender 3D open source platform plagued with arbitrary code vulnerabilities

    Cisco Talos researchers identified multiple unpatched vulnerabilities in the Blender Open Source 3D creation suite that could allow an attacker to run arbitrary code.

  • Technologies That Secure the Home, WiFi and More Debut at CES 2018
  • What is the Future of Wi-Fi?
  • Spectre and Meltdown Attacks Against Microprocessors

    This is bad, but expect it more and more. Several trends are converging in a way that makes our current system of patching security vulnerabilities harder to implement.

  • Four Tips for a More Secure Website

    Security is a hot topic in web development with great reason. Every few months a major website is cracked and millions of user records are leaked. Many times the cause of a breach is from a simple vulnerability that has been overlooked. Here are a few tips to give you a quick overview of standard techniques for making your websites more secure. Note: I do not guarantee a secure website if you follow these suggestions, there are many facets to security that I don’t even touch in this article. This write-up is for increasing awareness about techniques used to correct some common vulnerabilities that appear in web applications.

  • What is DevSecOps? Developing more secure applications

    The simple premise of DevSecOps is that everyone in the software development life cycle is responsible for security, in essence bringing operations and development together with security functions. DevSecOps aims to embed security in every part of the development process. It is about trying to automate core security tasks by embedding security controls and processes early in the DevOps workflow (rather than being bolted on at the end). For example, this could be the case when migrating to microservices, building out a CI/CD pipeline, compliance automation or simply testing cloud infrastructure.

More in Tux Machines

Security: OpenSSL, IoT, and LWN Coverage of 'Intelpocalypse'

  • Another Face to Face: Email Changes and Crypto Policy
    The OpenSSL OMC met last month for a two-day face-to-face meeting in London, and like previous F2F meetings, most of the team was present and we addressed a great many issues. This blog posts talks about some of them, and most of the others will get their own blog posts, or notices, later. Red Hat graciously hosted us for the two days, and both Red Hat and Cryptsoft covered the costs of their employees who attended. One of the overall threads of the meeting was about increasing the transparency of the project. By default, everything should be done in public. We decided to try some major changes to email and such.
  • Some Basic Rules for Securing Your IoT Stuff

    Throughout 2016 and 2017, attacks from massive botnets made up entirely of hacked [sic] IoT devices had many experts warning of a dire outlook for Internet security. But the future of IoT doesn’t have to be so bleak. Here’s a primer on minimizing the chances that your IoT things become a security liability for you or for the Internet at large.

  • A look at the handling of Meltdown and Spectre
    The Meltdown/Spectre debacle has, deservedly, reached the mainstream press and, likely, most of the public that has even a remote interest in computers and security. It only took a day or so from the accelerated disclosure date of January 3—it was originally scheduled for January 9—before the bugs were making big headlines. But Spectre has been known for at least six months and Meltdown for nearly as long—at least to some in the industry. Others that were affected were completely blindsided by the announcements and have joined the scramble to mitigate these hardware bugs before they bite users. Whatever else can be said about Meltdown and Spectre, the handling (or, in truth, mishandling) of this whole incident has been a horrific failure. For those just tuning in, Meltdown and Spectre are two types of hardware bugs that affect most modern CPUs. They allow attackers to cause the CPU to do speculative execution of code, while timing memory accesses to deduce what has or has not been cached, to disclose the contents of memory. These disclosures can span various security boundaries such as between user space and the kernel or between guest operating systems running in virtual machines. For more information, see the LWN article on the flaws and the blog post by Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton that well describes modern CPU architectures and speculative execution to explain why the Raspberry Pi is not affected.
  • Addressing Meltdown and Spectre in the kernel
    When the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities were disclosed on January 3, attention quickly turned to mitigations. There was already a clear defense against Meltdown in the form of kernel page-table isolation (KPTI), but the defenses against the two Spectre variants had not been developed in public and still do not exist in the mainline kernel. Initial versions of proposed defenses have now been disclosed. The resulting picture shows what has been done to fend off Spectre-based attacks in the near future, but the situation remains chaotic, to put it lightly. First, a couple of notes with regard to Meltdown. KPTI has been merged for the 4.15 release, followed by a steady trickle of fixes that is undoubtedly not yet finished. The X86_BUG_CPU_INSECURE processor bit is being renamed to X86_BUG_CPU_MELTDOWN now that the details are public; there will be bug flags for the other two variants added in the near future. 4.9.75 and 4.4.110 have been released with their own KPTI variants. The older kernels do not have mainline KPTI, though; instead, they have a backport of the older KAISER patches that more closely matches what distributors shipped. Those backports have not fully stabilized yet either. KPTI patches for ARM are circulating, but have not yet been merged.
  • Is it time for open processors?
    The disclosure of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities has brought a new level of attention to the security bugs that can lurk at the hardware level. Massive amounts of work have gone into improving the (still poor) security of our software, but all of that is in vain if the hardware gives away the game. The CPUs that we run in our systems are highly proprietary and have been shown to contain unpleasant surprises (the Intel management engine, for example). It is thus natural to wonder whether it is time to make a move to open-source hardware, much like we have done with our software. Such a move may well be possible, and it would certainly offer some benefits, but it would be no panacea. Given the complexity of modern CPUs and the fierceness of the market in which they are sold, it might be surprising to think that they could be developed in an open manner. But there are serious initiatives working in this area; the idea of an open CPU design is not pure fantasy. A quick look around turns up several efforts; the following list is necessarily incomplete.
  • Notes from the Intelpocalypse
    Rumors of an undisclosed CPU security issue have been circulating since before LWN first covered the kernel page-table isolation patch set in November 2017. Now, finally, the information is out — and the problem is even worse than had been expected. Read on for a summary of these issues and what has to be done to respond to them in the kernel. All three disclosed vulnerabilities take advantage of the CPU's speculative execution mechanism. In a simple view, a CPU is a deterministic machine executing a set of instructions in sequence in a predictable manner. Real-world CPUs are more complex, and that complexity has opened the door to some unpleasant attacks. A CPU is typically working on the execution of multiple instructions at once, for performance reasons. Executing instructions in parallel allows the processor to keep more of its subunits busy at once, which speeds things up. But parallel execution is also driven by the slowness of access to main memory. A cache miss requiring a fetch from RAM can stall the execution of an instruction for hundreds of processor cycles, with a clear impact on performance. To minimize the amount of time it spends waiting for data, the CPU will, to the extent it can, execute instructions after the stalled one, essentially reordering the code in the program. That reordering is often invisible, but it occasionally leads to the sort of fun that caused Documentation/memory-barriers.txt to be written.

US Sanctions Against Chinese Android Phones, LWN Report on Eelo

  • A new bill would ban the US government from using Huawei and ZTE phones
    US lawmakers have long worried about the security risks posed the alleged ties between Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE and the country’s government. To that end, Texas Representative Mike Conaway introduced a bill last week called Defending U.S. Government Communications Act, which aims to ban US government agencies from using phones and equipment from the companies. Conaway’s bill would prohibit the US government from purchasing and using “telecommunications equipment and/or services,” from Huawei and ZTE. In a statement on his site, he says that technology coming from the country poses a threat to national security, and that use of this equipment “would be inviting Chinese surveillance into all aspects of our lives,” and cites US Intelligence and counterintelligence officials who say that Huawei has shared information with state leaders, and that the its business in the US is growing, representing a further security risk.
  • U.S. lawmakers urge AT&T to cut commercial ties with Huawei - sources
    U.S. lawmakers are urging AT&T Inc, the No. 2 wireless carrier, to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and oppose plans by telecom operator China Mobile Ltd to enter the U.S. market because of national security concerns, two congressional aides said. The warning comes after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump took a harder line on policies initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing’s role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. strategic industries. Earlier this month, AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers Huawei [HWT.UL] handsets after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters.
  • Eelo seeks to make a privacy-focused phone
    A focus on privacy is a key feature being touted by a number of different projects these days—from KDE to Tails to Nextcloud. One of the biggest privacy leaks for most people is their phone, so it is no surprise that there are projects looking to address that as well. A new entrant in that category is eelo, which is a non-profit project aimed at producing not only a phone, but also a suite of web services. All of that could potentially replace the Google or Apple mothership, which tend to collect as much personal data as possible.

today's howtos

Mozilla: Resource Hogs, Privacy Month, Firefox Census, These Weeks in Firefox

  • Firefox Quantum Eats RAM Like Chrome
    For a long time, Mozilla’s Firefox has been my web browser of choice. I have always preferred it to using Google’s Chrome, because of its simplicity and reasonable system resource (especially RAM) usage. On many Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint and many others, Firefox even comes installed by default. Recently, Mozilla released a new, powerful and faster version of Firefox called Quantum. And according to the developers, it’s new with a “powerful engine that’s built for rapid-fire performance, better, faster page loading that uses less computer memory.”
  • Mozilla Communities Speaker Series #PrivacyMonth
    As a part of the Privacy Month initiative, Mozilla volunteers are hosting a couple of speaker series webinars on Privacy, Security and related topics. The webinars will see renowned speakers talking to us about their work around privacy, how to take control of your digital self, some privacy-security tips and much more.
  • “Ewoks or Porgs?” and Other Important Questions
    You ever go to a party where you decide to ask people REAL questions about themselves, rather than just boring chit chat? Us, too! That’s why we’ve included questions that really hone in on the important stuff in our 2nd Annual Firefox Census.
  • These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 30